In favor of proposed school budget

To the editor:

As a parent of a middle school student, I’m concerned about the quality of education in Saranac Lake.

We moved here in 2007. In order to get to know the school community, I became a recess/lunch monitor, subbed for teacher’s aides and assistants, and was active with Petrova Parents Club for four years. I value and appreciate all teachers and staff. Everyone does. At the same time, I am strongly opposed to the school budget exceeding the tax cap. What follows is a summary of my comments to the school board on April 9:

I feel the superintendent presented, and the board has now approved, a decent budget given the constraints we are under. These are difficult financial times. Cuts are not being made for spite. There is, however, an untapped source of relief. School budgets cannot be adequately discussed separately from union contracts. Are contractual raises being given to teachers for next year? How does this make sense?

Every union I have been in had to, at some point, make concessions. The unions I was in understood that the goal they were fighting for was to benefit the majority, not just the senior members. My unions took reduced raises, no raises, pay freezes and even pay reductions to save jobs and save the company. Does our community feel unions here are doing their part? Do our lowest-seniority union members feel the union has done everything it could for them? How do you look each other in the eye? Why does it seem that the teachers’ union turns its back on the new, bright, young, enthusiastic members every single time? Before I would ever vote to exceed the tax cap, I need to feel the unions have made sacrifices, too. And that does not seem to be the case here.

I know what it’s like to be laid off with a month’s notice. I lost my job, my career. I know what it’s like to have a 2-year-old at home, a spouse in college with only a part-time job, and be worried we would lose our house. I’ve been there. But I also know that my union did everything they could to minimize the numbers of us affected. It is time for the teachers’ unions to make a move and do their part, or be called out for their lack of action.

In this area, teaching jobs are among the highest-paid jobs around, yet every budget time, it seems we hear people speaking for more money to save jobs and programs. Rather than sacrificing their young teachers by holding a hard line, perhaps the teachers’ union could take a new look at their contract. Before ever asking taxpayers for a budget that exceeds the tax cap, we taxpayers need to know your pockets aren’t already bulging with our money. I intend to vote for the proposed budget because, without union help, it is as sound as it can be.

Melinda Walton

Saranac Lake