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LETTER: Former Waterloo BOE president concerned about taxes, spending in district

Editor’s Note: This is an Letter to the Editor. It was not written by any member of the team. If you would like to submit a letter for consideration please send it to [email protected].

What is going on in Waterloo?

The budget for the Waterloo Central School District will exceed 50 million dollars this coming school year for the first time ever. Wow, 50 million dollars, over $33,000 per student. This upcoming budget equates to an operating cost of $278,000 per school day.  What makes this so surprising is that just four years ago the budget was 40 million dollars. This is a 10 million dollar increase or 25% in just four years. If we contrast this with budgets from 2016 to 2020, those four years saw an increase of a more reasonable 2.99 million dollars or 8%. Some may say these larger numbers are due to inflation and covid, and in part I agree. However, if we look at neighboring districts, the Seneca Falls’ budget is increasing this year by about 1.6 million dollars or approximately 4.7% and Romulus is increasing about $200,000 or 1.58%. Waterloo is increasing 4.4 million dollars or 9.56% and as stated 25% from 2020 to 2024. 

What is causing this budget to spiral out of control? The reasons are plenty but here are a couple of big ones. Large capital projects seemingly every other year that drain down reserve funds, those funds then need to be replenished, and guess who is responsible for the replenishing, that’s right, you the taxpayer. The largest driver is that basic foundation aid from the state has grown substantially. Waterloo is considered a low wealth district so state aid is generous and getting more generous. At the highest level of WCSD administration they refuse to cut the tax rate no matter how generous the state aid gets.

(See the Oct 2019 Financial Condition Management Report from the office of the State Comptroller)  

Even in light of the Comptroller’s report, district officials continue to try and spend all of the money they have coming in. The very generous state aid the district receives makes spending all of the money literally hard to do, nearly impossible. It also is what allows them this year to increase the budget by 9.56% but only raise the tax rate by 1.75% 

They tell the community how responsible they are as they have kept tax rates very manageable. However at this point, it is time for the district to meaningfully CUT the tax rate! (Cutting the tax rate is also a recommendation of the State Comptroller’s Audit- page 1 under key recommendations) When you can afford to raise your budget 25% (10 million dollars) in just four short years, it’s time! It’s past time! You are spending too much, and you are charging the community too much. I believe this type of budgeting will continue until the voters say NO! The school budget and board of education vote is this coming Tuesday, May 16. Vote down this budget boondoggle and vote for board of education members that will STOP THE MADNESS

Mike Shores
Waterloo NY
Board of Education Member 2010-2020 / BOE President 2016-2019