Thus far, 2012 has been relatively uneventful.  We had some late night bills passed and a budget that was not only on-time, but early and with flat spending and no increases in taxes and fees.  But all of that could change over the coming weeks.

In early May, all of us as taxpayers will have the opportunity to vote on school budgets (and School Board members).  So we thought it might be a good idea to lay out some basic facts about how we, as taxpayers and voters, effectively have our voices neutered by the state even if we do turn up to vote.  This isn’t new, we’ve talked about this before.

It is true that we elect our school boards and that they may work on the school budgets.  But 70-80% of school spending is determined by the state law, you know them as MANDATES, there is little room to make meaningful cost cutting changes. So,  our voices are neutralized.

So, to make sure everyone knows what’s going on, we’ve decided that for the next two weeks  we will be posting one question and one answer each day related to the school budgets.  They are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s).  The goal is for taxpayers to understand some of the legal obstacles facing local officials when developing budgets.  For instance, did you know that a school cannot “freeze” pay increases during tough times nor can they pick the “most responsible bidder” on construction projects?  Well, you will.

It is important that we all get educated about the laws and the impact they have on local budgets.  We often hear people complain that local government is not doing enough to control spending and thus taxes.  But the reality is their hands are often tied by the laws.  So, get informed by following our FAQ’s.  To find our questions and answers just check our Facebook page or Twitter feed staring on Monday (April 16) and come back here, to our Unshackle Upstate blog, to see the full list of questions and answers on April 27th.