Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — WILSON — Town residents voted down the Wilson School budget for the second time this spring “sending a message” that the price of education is too high in the district.
The vote was 903-604 against the $24.3 million budget Tuesday. On May 18, the budget went down to defeat by a 698-414 margin.
That means the district will automatically go to a contingency budget of the same $24.3 million. The difference of about $200,000 will come from Wilson’s $2 million in reserves. That could portend problems in the future, according to outgoing school board president Tim Kropp.
With the high turnout in a town of 6,000, Superintendent Mike Wendt anticipated the budget might go down to defeat.
“The process works and we’ll work with the results of the vote,” Wendt said. “There are a lot of people that want to send a message. We try to bring out a responsible budget to the people. With this (contingency) budget, we’ll take a look at the five-year plan, redesign that, and we’ll work through it.”
Bill Smith, a retired resident, said, “I think they have to slow down the spending on the teachers. Send a message to the union that we as taxpayers can’t afford any more raises. That’s the feeling around that everybody has. We have to make up for salaries and their retirement.”
Union President Meg Thompson, a fourth-grade teacher, thinks the public might have the wrong perception of teachers’ pay and benefits.
“We’re not getting raises every year,” she said. “Our last conttract was in 2008, we have not asked for more money since then. What they’re talking about is the steps. Now, there’s a whole number of us at the top step and we haven’t had an increase since 2008.”
The teachers have also surrendered some health insurance and now have Point of Service insurance.
“My frustration is the increase in taxes,” said Christine LaRock who has two children in the district. “The biggest issues are that everything keeps going up and people are fed up with paying more taxes.”
Parents are concerned that sports and programs like music may be dropped. That won’t happen in 2013-14 under the contingency budget.
Residents don’t understand the process, Kropp explained. “People are protesting things that can’t be changed on a yearly basis. By doing this, they are saddling our kids and putting this on the backs of our kids. They are the ones who are going to get hurt.”
Had the budget passed, the board could operate under regular rules, Director of Finance John Mantesanti explained. “Under a failed budget, we have to operate under contingency rules. The board determines what’s contingent. ... If the budget goes down, we will not be able to raise our tax levy.”
The expenditure number didn’t change in this budget. Wilson will not make adjustment on the on the expense side, but make adjustments on the revenue side.
Organizations using school facilities will now have to pay for the service.