TUPPER LAKE - A retired teacher advocated for the public to vote in favor of the school budget after the school board approved it at a Friday meeting.
Darlene Donnelly, who has been retired for about five years, said the local media has been focusing too much on the possible 9.91-percent tax levy increase and argued that a recent Enterprise editorial suggesting Tupper Lake teachers consider taking a pay cut like Saranac Lake and Lake Placid's did made it sound like the teachers are not making any sacrifices.
"We need both presses to make it really, really clear that Tupper Lake has already made huge sacrifices, and we need this budget to pass," Donnelly said.
She said Tupper Lake's teachers are making a huge sacrifice by losing a quarter of the district's instructional positions, and that teachers have been working with the school board in making cuts and getting the word out about the budget crisis. If teachers were to renegotiate their contracts, it wouldn't be enough savings to make a meaningful difference, she said.
"Even pay cuts wouldn't have been able to fix how unjust it was," Donnelly said. "Our situation is different from in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid."
Donnelly said retired teachers would be willing to make phone calls to voters and help advocate for passing the budget.
Potential cuts in the state budget have led the district to pass a spending plan with a 9.91-percent increase in the amount of the budget coming from taxes. Total spending only grew by 1.37 percent over the current year, to a total of $16.4 million. That's after the elimination of 32 instructional positions and various other cuts.
District Superintendent Seth McGowan said he made some room in the budget in case the final state budget, which was due April 1 but is historically often late, includes more money for the district.
"Any additional revenue that comes in or any savings that come in between now and when the tax bills go out could reduce that," McGowan said.
School board Vice President Dan Mansfield made the motion to approve the budget, board member Dawn Hughes seconded it, and it passed unanimously. Board member Mark Yamrick was not at the meeting.
McGowan said after the meeting that if the budget doesn't pass the May 18 public vote, the board could either decide to go straight to a contingency budget or put it up for a second vote, with either a second try at the same budget or one with additional cuts.
"I would not put up the same budget for a second vote," McGowan said. "However, we have cut so much already that what's left to cut is limited."
If it failed a second vote, the district would have to go to a contingency budget, which is essentially a budget that allows no additional spending over the current year's, with a few exemptions for things that would violate laws or contracts.