Broadalbin-Perth Central School District officials wants to turn district residents into advocates for changes in state aid to schools, for relief from mandates and for reforms in employee-pension and health-benefit funding.
The district will hold an organizational meeting titled “We Need Your Voice, Too!” from 6:30 to 8 this evening in the high school cafeteria.
“School leaders have been advocating for years, but we have not seen the changes we have been asking for. Maybe we need more voices joining,” said Michele Kelley, spokeswoman for the school district. “This is first time we have asked people to come in and listen to a presentation of advocacy.”
The meeting will discuss three issues and ask participants to craft a message on an issue they can post on their Facebook page or use as a talking point when contacting elected officials and others, Kelley said.
“We have heard from legislators that for a lot of things we are looking for, there is not the political will in Albany,” Kelley said.
“But our residents are voters, and if our elected officials hear from enough voters, maybe the political winds will shift.”
Broadalbin-Perth is focusing on these issues:
• Reform of the state school aid distribution formula to make it more equitable. Kelley said the current formula penalizes average-wealth districts such as Broadalbin-Perth, costing the district approximately $6 million over the last four years. “Broadalbin-Perth loses $1,300 per student compared to more wealthy districts,” she said.
• Reform or elimination of unfunded mandates. “All mandates are created with the best intentions, like the Annual Professional Performance Review, but the APPR takes one-third of our administrators’ time and we only get a little money to implement it,” Kelley said. The reviews are only one example of state and federal mandates on school districts. “We figured 87 percent of our operating budget goes to fulfill state and federal mandates,” she said.
• Reforming the current pension system and obtaining relief from rising health-benefit costs. Kelley said employee contributions into the state’s two pension systems are fixed, depending on the tier, while employer contributions vary from year to year, depending on fluctuations in the stock market. When the stock market crashed several years ago, employer contributions skyrocketed into the double digits, she said. Broadalbin-Perth paid 15.22 percent into the Employee Retirement System and 11.1 percent into the Teacher Retirement System for the 2011-12 academic year, for example. “Ten years ago, our ERS contribution was less than 1 percent and our TRS contribution was 0.36 percent,” she said.
As for the health benefit system, while most of the changes districts seek would be determined through contract negotiations, the state can help control costs through reforms in regulations on public employee labor contracts, she said.
Capital Region BOCES and the Questar III BOCES will have an advocacy meeting Jan. 31, she added.