Budgets show it can be done

Residents of the Greater Amsterdam and Broadalbin-Perth school districts ought to be pretty pleased with the budgets adopted by their respective school boards this week.

It makes us wonder why school officials haven't been able to present spending plans like this all along.

The GASD Board of Education adopted a $63 million budget this week that carries no tax levy increase. In fact, taxpayers in the city and town of Amsterdam will see their tax rates slightly decrease, while those in other communities will see slight increases. It should be noted that tax rates are based on individual equalization rates, over which the school district has no control.

The GASD budget doesn't come with any massive layoffs or program cuts. An increase in state aid has helped cover much of the expenses, but district officials should be applauded for, as business manager Kim Brumley said, working with what they had in terms of money to craft a spending plan.

The news is almost as good in Broadalbin-Perth. The $30 million budget approved by the board Monday carries a 3.36 percent tax levy, but that's nearly half of what the district would be allowed to enact under a state-mandated tax cap. The plan also restores and expands several programs that have been cut in recent years due to budget constraints, including reinstating the junior varsity sports program. There are also no layoffs in the plan, the first time that's happened in a few years.

Both budgets seem reasonable and strike a good balance between the needs of the students and the needs of the people who pay for them. Given today's economic climate, it almost seems miraculous the two districts were even able to put together budgets like these, given the fact that other schools -- Fonda-Fultonville, for example -- are struggling to stay afloat.

Or that's what they'll tell us.

These budgets, in fact, are the result of creative planning and making tough decisions during the past few years to stabilize the school districts. Contracts have been reworked, the districts have found other sources of revenue to keep programs and staffing intact, and everyone has learned to do more with less.

We can't help but think that schools would have an easier time right now if they had been doing this all along.

We understand school districts are up against a wall because of several factors outside of their control. They have to deal with unfunded state mandates and are at the mercy of Albany politicians who determine how much aid to dole out to schools, and how much taxpayers will be forced to pay to cover the rest.

GASD and Broadalbin-Perth have had their share of struggles up to this point. Both schools have had to implement massive layoffs and program reductions in the past in order to deal with the escalating costs of doing business. This year, however, both have been able to get their budgets under control and appear to be poised to offer our children a sound education without further breaking the backs of taxpayers.

We hope both school districts and others can continue to find ways to keep their budgets intact and avoid massive issues down the road. It may mean more creative financial planning and taking a harder line when it comes to spending, but this year's offerings by the GASD and Broadalbin-Perth show it can be done.