Here are notes and photos of a presentation to the New Rochelle Board of Education that purports to be “a budget”.
UPDATE: Tom Ryan’s presentation has been posted to BoardDocs.
If you can follow this, it is the so-called “status quo” budget which is not really a “budget” – it does not include the principals requests for example. There is nothing from community input because there has not been any. It mostly carries forward contractual obligations and state requirements on the cost side and simply increase the revenue side based on the maximum allowed without breaking the tax levy cap.
Despite promises last week there is still no budget and no plans to present a budget and still no calendar detailing any plans to present a budget.
All brought to you by the folks that continue to insist that last year’s budget was not transparent. At least there was a budget. We are now well into March and still no budget.
Interim Assistant Superintendent Tom Ryan failed to follow New York State Open Meeting Law — and none of the “transparency experts” on the school board even noted the fact — by presenting an excel spreadsheet that was not distributed to the audience beforehand so the public could prepare beforehand or follow along. It was not in board docs.
In order to report on his presentation I moved to the front row and took photos using my iPhone to take pictures prompting Ryan to make some sort of joke about me taking pictures prompting laughter from several board members. I made a remark to Sal Fernandez and Jeffrey Hastie seated nearby that I would not need to take pictures if Ryan was nor violating the Open Meeting Law and had posted the presentation online. Apparently this had not occurred to them.
I mentioned his OML violation to Ryan afterwards and he said he had not finished the document until 5 pm. He presented it at about 9 pm which means he had 4 hours to email the document to the Board Clerk, seated a few feet away from where he spoke so she could post a copy to BoardDocs. In other words, there was no valid excuse for his failure to follow OML. So much for transparency on the budget presentation.
Ryan had said last Wednesday at the meeting of the Finance and Facilities Committee that his “status quo” budget would be ready by close of business Friday March 1st. Obviously, it was not done. Also last week, Jeffrey Hastie said he and Amy Moselhi would work on having a budget season calendar ready for the March 5 board meeting. I have been asking about all this since mid-February.
The highlight of the budget is the $277,721,000 on a tax levy rate increase of 2.24% but it does not mean anything because Ryan simply multiplied last year’s budget by the maximum allowed under the tax cap so it is just the maximum allowable revenue under the tax levy cap with no substantive consideration for where that revenue actually comes from. He assumes, for example, the Governor’s budget will remain as originally proposed even though Cuomo announced weeks ago that he would have to revise his budget after Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced that state tax revenue was down an unexpected $2.5 billion in January. He makes various assumptions about PILOT revenue apparently unaware that PILOT revenue is not neatly matched up to the school budget. There are so many holes in what was presented it is hardly worth pointing them out. What was presented was junk – it was basically the sort of crude outline a business official might use at the very start of the budget process not six weeks out from the board adopting an actual budget (April 23rd).
Not a single board asked a single question about the so-called budget. Sal Fernandez thanked Ryan because everything was so “clear”. Sal was not convincing
Julia Muggie-Ochs did ask about the budget calendar promised by Hastie last week. Hastie said nothing to Muggia-Ochs. Ryan said he would have a calendar later this week. Next week is Ryan’s last week before he heads back to Florida for 10 days so something needs to happen soon.
If you care to take a look at the so-called “status quo” budget, here are my photos. If you see anything interesting post a comment. It is hard to take this too seriously because it is a largely meaningless document and certainly not a budget. It was really meant to allow the District to pretend they had a board meeting where a budget was discussed. Just how useless tonight was will be obvious if a real budget is ever produced.