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Viewpoint author too dismissive of alternative energy

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Viewpoint author too dismissive of alternative energy Re June 9 Viewpoint, “Alternate energy won’t be available by 2030”: Russ Wege feels that it is too costly, unnecessary and technically challenging for New York to have an energy supply based on solar, wind and geothermal by the year 2030. The report calling for this transition to renewable energy was authored by environmental scientists and engineers (Jacobson, et al.) at two of the world’s leading research institutions ...

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June 13, 2013
8:05 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Embarek Mesbahi has it absolutely right about Niskayuna school taxes! Our small school district needs to face the new reality and realize we can't afford to pay for everything we would like. Some cutting has been made to services and tuition, but the administrative spend should be cut to a 50% target. Address the exploding Special Ed spend (which still grew 2012 to 2013), cut the empty buses, make department directors devote 75% time to classroom instruction, share services with adjoining school districts, towns etc. Finally, the schools should draw on our community's talents and utilize volunteers to reduce costs of the many programs that rightfully make Niskayuna unique.

June 13, 2013
8:10 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Mr Meshbahi stop making sense. All cuts must be made in teaching never busing and bloated administration. NYS should go to a Florida model of one superintendent per county. Our county tax increase was triple the Cuomo phony tax "cap" at 6%. Too many working together to serve up County taxpayers.

June 13, 2013
1:41 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

In the past five years, from the 2008-2009 school year to the present, Instruction and Support (salaries) in the Niskayuna school system have gone down 1.3 percent from $36,567,701 to $36,090,839. Employee benefits on the other hand have gone up 43 percent from $12,912,559 to $18,440,747. Employee benefits include health insurance and pensions mainly.
The cost of health insurance, although expensive is well contained. The Niskayuna Central School District self-insures its health benefits, thereby keeping administrative costs to a minimum. Further Niskayuna teachers pay much more for their health insurance than those in surrounding school systems. Perhaps some more work could be done in this area to further contain costs, but that is not the main problem.
It is the pension component of the benefit package that is troublesome. The Board of Education or the Central School System do not negotiate teacher pensions. The teachers’ union and the legislature do. The New York State United Teachers union is very powerful in New York State. They provide support for legislatures at election time in return for pension enhancements and conditions of employment enacted into law. The New York State Constitution guarantees the pensions of New York State employees.
The pensions are supported by employee contributions and investment returns. Unlike 401k and IRA programs in the private sector where, if markets disappoint, individual investors make up the difference to preserve their retirement goals, in the public sector, school systems are required to make up the difference. In the case of the Niskayuna school system the pension component of employee benefits increased $1,354,288 in the 2013-2014 budget, which translates into a 1.8 percent increase in the total budget. If the legislature were to pay for this unfunded mandate (after all they were the ones who made the law) instead of the Niskayuna taxpayers the cap would be 2.86% instead of 4.66% for a majority vote.
To blame some administrators (who, by the way, took a pay cut last year) for increasing taxes miss the point. It is your legislators who should be held accountable for your increasing school taxes.

June 13, 2013
7:43 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

jjhehir: From the tone of your comments, reads like you work at that Niskayuna School District, since your comments seem to be very defensive about why the costs are what they are. While what you state is probably true, how would you defend the costs of operating six school districts in tiny Schenectady County; each duplicating and replicating educational services to a very small population of 160,000 total people?

You say the administrators took a pay cut. During this same period there are many taxpayers, who fund these school district salaries, who took a pay cut, or did not receive a sufficient increase in their Social Security benefits to cover the increased cost of school taxes that these over-bloated school districts demand from the taxpayers.

Instead of defending why it is what you have and want, and to continue to want, why don’t you focus on how to deliver educational service to ALL students in a county, in the most efficient manner that will provide the best possible education to these children that operates within the economic and financial bounds of what is available today? If you truly cared about the education of the students, you might move from this living in the past thinking about how it’s always been, to a progressive thought process of how it should be today and into the future. This is about the students you are supposedly serving. Not pensions, health insurance, teacher’s unions, 401Ks, and the legislature.

June 14, 2013
9:12 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Ronzo, I don’t work for the Niskayuna School District. I have never been a teacher. There is no one in my family who is or was associated with the Niskayuna School District. I have no association with the Niskayuna School District other than to go to meetings from time to time.
As a retiree, I am well aware of how paltry investment returns are, and that Social Security benefits are insufficient to fund our annual school tax increases.
My opinion is derived from analysis of information provided by the Board of Education before the budget is voted on each year. The process is simple: take their numbers, plug them into an Excel spreadsheet and find trends.
I doubt that the people of Niskayuna have an appetite to merge with surrounding school districts to save money, mainly because they believe that educational opportunities for their children would deteriorate under such an arrangement.
Merging school districts would not save money. One of the drivers of annual school tax increases is the cost of pensions, which are funded by employer and employee contributions and investment returns. Pension costs would be the same whether school systems are merged or not.
Employer contributions are a variable; when markets disappoint (total returns fall below 8%), the employer has to make up the difference. The return on all NYS pensions in FY 2013 is 10.38%. Based on that, pension costs to school districts should go down next year. In future years, Tier VI pensions should cost less also.
The main driver of annual increases in school budgets is the decrease in promised state aid. In the last four years, the Niskayuna School District lost $13 million in promised aid.
The Governor and your legislators are responsible for your tax increases. The Governor because he reduced promised state aid to balance his own budget, and your legislators because they promised too much to the teachers’ union in the past.