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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 12, 2011
By Saranac Hale Spencer
Peter Scotto, who runs a pediatric therapy business, has always worked with kids and sees a seat on the school board as another way to help. The Brooklyn native, who has two children in Bethlehem’s middle school, is seeking his first term on the school board.
Of whether or not he supports the proposed budget, Scotto said that the district is facing “tough times” and noted that the tax levy increase is 2 percent, which would meet the governor’s proposal. He strongly dislikes the proposal, he said, explaining that regular expenses, like health care and business operations, go up more than 2 percent a year.
Schools should be run like businesses, he said, with people who know how to run a business making the decisions. He questioned New York State’s method for running schools with an elected body, since many of the candidates have no special skills in education or business. Perhaps schools boards have a place in running the district, but shouldn’t make final decisions those could be left to the superintendent, he suggested. “We need to start looking at it,” Scotto said of changing the way school districts are run.
Although he stressed that, “you don’t know what next year will bring” regarding the budget, Scotto said that cutting salaries would have the biggest fiscal impact since they make up the great majority of the budget. He also suggested consolidating transportation and looking closely at general spending.
When times are flush, he said, the district should still be wary of spending to soften the impact in tough times by way of example, he said that the district shouldn’t buy things, like new school buildings, that will cost money to maintain in the future or add auxiliary staff who will become tenured.
With no increase in state aid plus a cap on the amount that the district is allowed to collect through taxes, it would be difficult to stay within 2 percent each year, Scotto said of the governor’s proposal. It is possible for the district to stay within the cap, he said, but not without having a profound impact on school programs.
For negotiating contracts in the future, Scotto said, the district and the unions might not be able to compromise on step raises, but the district might be able to negotiate for some things, like having employees contribute more towards their health insurance premiums or committing to working more hours to provide summer programs.
On Clarksville, Scotto said, “I’m indifferent.” If it was the only way to save money, then he doesn’t fault the board for its decision, he said, adding that it’s hard to say without knowing what alternatives there were. If the building is in good condition, the district should maintain it and rent it out until the student population might require it to open again.
“If you’re thinking in the best interests of the students and parents, you’re thinking in the best interests of teachers,” Scotto said.