B-P eyes advocacy to help finances

BROADALBIN – The Broadalbin-Perth Central School District held a public forum Wednesday to inform parents and faculty about how they can help advocate for their students to help get the district more funding, and equitable treatment, from the state.

“As a parent, teacher, student, taxpayer or concerned community member, you must share with your state senator and assemblyman your insights about how decisions they make at the state level could devastate school districts like ours,” Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson wrote in a letter handed out during the forum.

About a dozen parents, faculty members and community members attended the forum.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive state budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year calls for an additional $149,969 for Broadalbin-Perth – a year-to-year increase of 1.34 percent, not including building aid.

“I think the voices of our community have actually already been heard in Albany,” Tomlinson said. “That is not good enough though. We need to continue to be heard and hold our elected officials responsible.”

He said the additional money and promise of positive change for school districts is great, but advocacy is more important now because the budget must be approved by the state Legislature before April 1.

Tomlinson said a call from him will not have the effect that 60 community members’ calls, along with his, will have.

Tomlinson said letting the local politicians know what the students need as they pick apart the governor’s budget will help make sure the district gets the funding it needs.

He mentioned the proposed increase in state aid to Broadalbin-Perth will help.

However, Tomlinson said, it is not enough. With mandates already in effect and rising pension costs, the expenses of the district outpace its revenues. That requires the district to use its fund balance and reserves.

The district presented several facts for parents to use when reaching out to local legislators that are from Buffalo Business First, a business journal that put together a 2012-13 Guide to Upstate School Districts.

According to information presented at the forum, B-P has the seventh-highest graduation rate out of 92 districts in the Greater Capital Region, ranks 36 out of 430 upstate school districts in cost-effectiveness and 38 out of 430 districts in administrative efficiency.

“These are extremely important statistics to present to [legislators] because it shows we are doing the best we can with the money we are provided,” Tomlinson said. “These facts will show them when we get the money here in Broadalbin-Perth we do good things with it.”

Tomlinson said the district over the course of a few years has already started to feel the effects of cuts by reducing the staff at the schools by 10 percent, reducing services for students – such as sports and other extracurricular offerings – and reducing its fund balance and reserves to make ends meet.

He also highlighted B-P’s advocacy priorities, which are:

Reform the state aid distribution system to provide equity.

Reform, remove and refuse to create additional unfunded or underfunded state mandates.

Reform the current pension system.

Provide employers with relief from unsustainable health benefit costs.

The new Annual Professional Performance Review mandate requires the district to spend about $60,000 that was not budgeted for implementation of the new teacher evaluation program, he said.

“I believe in [having a] teacher evaluation system, but we need funding to support that and we don’t have it,” Tomlinson said.

He also said pension costs are getting out of control. Within about 10 years, he said, the school’s expenses for pensions have gone from $50,000 to a total of $2.5 million that will have to be paid this year.

One concerned parent, Stephen Pavone, former principal of Park Terrace Elementary School in Gloversville, said eliminating some of the unnecessary or outdated mandates would allow the school to pay for other needs such as additional counseling.

“We need a lot more counseling in our schools and need a place where kids can turn to that will support the school district,” Pavone said.

For more information, visit www.bpcsd.org/Advocacy/.