Tuxedo – Greenwood Lake Budget Impasse  |  April 4, 2008

On Wednesday, April 2, the Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake budget negotiating teams sat down at 7 PM for the first time in a month to discuss the 2008-09 School budget. There are just 13 days left to try and hammer out a tuition agreement. The meeting ran for about two hours with a thirty minute recess around 7:45 PM used by both sides to try and understand the new revenue based model GWL sent over to Tuxedo late last week.

The Axelrod model that Greenwood Lake initially asked Tuxedo to use in February produced a tuition cost per student of $14,236. Greenwood Lake did not like this number so it searched for a model that would take into consideration each District’s supposed wealth as tracked by New York State and found a model called the Foundation Aid Output Model. This model is a revenue based model verses a cost base model. It produced a tuition cost of roughly $10,000 for Greenwood Lake, so this became the model Greenwood Lake wanted Tuxedo to use. Why? Because the Greenwood Lake tax payer currently pays a school tax based upon an assessed amount per $1,000 of home value about 2.5 times more than a Tuxedo resident pays. Ergo, somehow this tax differential should become Tuxedo’s problem to solve and not Greenwood Lake’s.

When Tuxedo not only did not back off from the Axelrod Cost Model, but stated the one page handout Greenwood Lake provided Tuxedo’s Board to support the use of the Foundation Aid Model was unacceptable due to its complete lack of supporting detail [Greenwood Lake Board President Kathy Gilson kept saying it could be found on the internet and Tuxedo just had to plug in some numbers], the two sides took a 30 minute recess to privately discuss what direction to go in next.

After massaging the Axelrod model during the recess, Greenwood Lake came back and said it should pay $10,383.07 for tuition students. Greenwood Lake said the Axelrod model Tuxedo used had very high Indirect Costs embedded in the tuition number, and most of these Indirect Costs should be borne solely by Tuxedo. Indirect Costs include such items as equipment purchases, student transportation, contractual expenditures [graduation costs, certain 3rd party student programs, etc.]. Tuxedo Board President Hickey asked Greenwood Lake’s negotiators why they had not raised questions about the Axelrod model direct verses indirect costs at the Administrative level [Business Administrator to Business Administrator or Supervisor to Supervisor] at any time in the last five weeks that Greenwood Lake has had the detailed model Tuxedo prepared? One would think that a number of issues pertaining to Indirect Costs could have been settled, or at the very least, identified before last night’s meeting if Greenwood Lake had applied just applied a modicum of common sense to the budget process.

The number Greenwood Lake came up with for special education students {“SES”} was $12,113.58. By way of reference, in 2002 SES tuition was about $16,000 and in the current school year, this number has grown to $25,000. So where does the SES number of $12,000 come from for next year’s 40 plus Greenwood Lake special education students? Greenwood Lake’s negotiators claim they had no idea that Special Education teachers would actually assist regular teachers and students in the classroom. They assumed Special Education teachers would only help special education students, and since this is not the case the cost of Special Education teachers should be evenly shared by all students. Given that Greenwood Lake’s own SE middle school teachers do exactly the same thing as Tuxedo’s Special Education high school teachers do in the classroom, the Greenwood Lake negotiating tactic here to reduce Special Education costs is absolutely ridiculous, and represents a complete lack of good faith bargaining.

We have a situation here in which Greenwood Lake has absolutely no other school district it can turn to for the 2008-2009 school year to educate its high school students. Yet President Gilson said that not only does a day go by that Greenwood Lake is not in negotiations with NYS officials about building its own high school, but also the need for Greenwood Lake to have its own high school is not about lowering the cost of educating its own students verses Tuxedo, but about control of those students and its own high school district.

Given how little meaningful headway Greenwood Lake has made in objectively evaluating the Axelrod Model it initially asked for in February, and the attitude Greenwood Lake’s negotiating team has about the need for Tuxedo tax payers to pay a more equitable share of their property values in the form of higher school taxes to subsidize the Greenwood Lake students, chances of reaching an Agreement in the next ten or so days are not very good. If both sides cannot reach an agreement, it will be up the New York State School Board to decide the tuition costs, and this in turn could well end up being some variation of the Seneca Falls Formula.

The final budget meeting is scheduled for 7:30 PM in Greenwood Lake on Tuesday April 8.

David du Pont

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