The Ti High Student Voice, the student government, formed a budget committee to provide student comment on the district budget process. Committee members include, from left, Jordan Woods, Karney manning and Cody Henthorn.
Students want to be heard as the Ticonderoga Central School District struggles to close a $1.7 million budget gap for 2012-13.
“We understand the school board has an impossible job,” Jordan Woods said. “They’re going to have to make cuts, but these cuts will affect us dramatically. We want to have some input.”
That’s why the Ti High Student Voice, the student government, formed a budget committee. It’s members have met with Superintendent John McDonald and plan on attending board meetings throughout the budget process.
Woods serves on the student budget committee along with Karney Manning, Cody Henthorn and others.
“We talk to kids all the time and we’ve had one (student body) meeting to collect opinions and ideas,” Woods said. “We intend to make our opinions known to the board.”
The New York State tax cap, which takes effect this year, calls for a 2 percent limit on tax increases — although some aspects of school spending are exempt from the tax cap. In Ticonderoga that means taxes can increase a maximum of $350,000 in 2012-13. That’s a 3.5 percent increase when exemptions are added in.
At the same time Ticonderoga has lost nearly $1.7 million that was available in 2011-12. Gone are $700,000 in state Excel aid, $310,000 in employee concessions, $300,000 in local fund balance, $180,000 in federal stimulus money and $87,000 from the employee retirement fund.
That means Ticonderoga will have to make serious budget cuts — cuts that worry students.
Manning said the top concerns are extracurricular activities and college prep courses. Students do not want those cut.
“We want the community and the board to know that if you take away extracurricular activities you’re taking away a big part of students’ lives,” Manning said.
Woods, Manning and Henthorn are all juniors who are concerned about the way cuts could affect their futures.
“When you apply to a good college they want to see a well-rounded student, someone who took part in sports, music, art and extracurricular activities,” Henthorn said. “They also want to see students who challenge themselves, who take the most difficult classes.
“If extracurricular activities and AP (advanced placement) courses are cut we won’t have the opportunity to show colleges what we can do,” he said.
Woods said students worry that cuts may be made without thinking about the consequences for students.
“I’ve heard a lot of irrational ideas,” he said. “People think you can just cut something without it having an impact.”
Henthorn knows talk is cheap for people who are not yet taxpayers. He said students respect the sacrifices of local taxpayers, but desperately want to save their school programs.
“Just because we don’t pay taxes doesn’t mean we won’t feel the affects,” Henthorn said.
“There will be a time when we do pay taxes,” Manning said. “I hope we have the programs to help us get into good colleges and have good careers so that we can help the school in the future.”
A local school district can exceed the state tax cap with approval of 60 percent of local voters. McDonald doesn’t believe that’s realistic in Ticonderoga. Last year residents rejected the budget when it was first presented and passed it a second time by three votes.