The worst of Sandy's wrath may still be on its way

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According to a Newsday article titled “Elementary School Enrollment Shrinking Across LI,” a data analysis illustrated that more than 70 percent of Long Island’s public school districts have shown declines in elementary school enrollment over the past six years. The falling enrollments are compounded by the past five years of painful budget cuts for personnel, programs and services.

The statistics are alarming for the elementary school years of 2005-06 through 2010-11, when 21 districts recorded a drop of 10 percent or greater in K-6 enrollments. According to Newsday, “Twenty-three of those same districts had a 10 percent or greater drop in kindergarten through third grade.”

Long Island’s high tax rates have already forced many small businesses, middle-class families and young people to flee. Don’t forget that state aid per student is calculated with a formula. Fewer students enrolled in our schools means less state aid, but still higher property taxes to fund our already bloated school systems.

We are faced with what many would call a perfect storm. Tax rates are going to rise radically to make up for reduced assessments. Middle-class taxpayers cannot afford more tax increases. The sudden rise in rates will certainly lead to lower property values and an increase in the flight of businesses and people from our communities. This is a lethal combination for our taxpayers.

The time to act is now. Local officials from both sides of the political aisle must come together and seek relief in Albany. It is imperative for Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to pass comprehensive legislation to deal with this problem immediately.

I fear that the economic burden on municipalities, school districts and our taxpayers may be unbearable. We already have people in the region who aren’t sure how to pay their contractors to repair their damaged homes.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at Sunday’s Home section in Newsday. People are abandoning their damaged homes and selling them “as is” for rock-bottom prices because they can’t afford to rebuild.
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