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Saturday, April 25, 2015
Cutting the fat . . . and the meat, and the bone
(Page 2 of 3)

Unfortunately, no matter how frugal a district is, it can not, on its own, stem the rising costs of pension obligations, health care and other benefits to which the state’s public employment system has committed it. These costs, which are rising at multiples of 2 percent, make the tax cap the wrong solution to a difficult problem.

Rather than address these stubborn structural issues directly in an intelligent — and potentially unpopular — way, Albany has, in effect, said, “We agree that taxes are too high and costs you don’t control are skyrocketing, but we can’t agree on how to fix the problem, so, school districts, you figure it out. Just don’t raise taxes more than 2 percent per year.”

While the fat was trimmed in year one, schools are now stripping away core elements. “We’ve cut our budget to the bone,” said West Hempstead Schools Superintendent John Hogan. “With the tax cap pushing against us, we’re cutting to the marrow.”

We do not believe this is what our legislators envisioned, and now that a pool of data exists, it is easy to see how the law overreaches.

Baldwin closed two schools and cut 26 teaching positions this year, warnings of possible termination were sent out to 99 teachers earlier this month, and the middle school day will be reduced by one period next year. The district is facing a $6 million gap in 2013-14 — if 60 percent of voters support a 7 percent tax hike.

West Hempstead has already cut 100 staff positions and a number of programs. This year, the district plans to cut ninth period from the middle and high schools, and to excise 15 additional positions. In the Sewanhaka district, nearly 50 job cuts have been proposed to make up a $3 million shortfall. Valley Stream will eliminate 15 teachers, several sports teams and numerous after-school clubs. In all, some 3,000 teaching positions have been eliminated Island-wide since the cap was enacted.

Some districts, like Rockville Centre, are managing to hold the line. Others will stave off frightening reductions by dipping into reserves or putting off projects. But is this our ideal? Do we really want a system that disproportionately favors high-income districts, and in which our best-performing districts merely manage not to get worse every year?

Comments

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Gregorio

Someone should ask the 2 Superintendents above if they are cutting into their marrow? Or salary, I should say. The 2% tax cap is one that was put in place in order to help alleviate huge tax increases upon the taxpayers. We are overburdened with the HUGE salaries and pension plans that the administrators of each of our school districts get paid. Am I anti- teacher, NO WAY.... But they work approximately 180 days a year and make an annual salary worthy of those that work YEAR ROUND. Then add in their pensions, WOW..... Its no wonder that we have a glut of professionally trained teachers looking for a job...... Governor Cuomo has said many time that we should be hiring Superintendents for 175K and under, which is MORE than reasonable pay for the position. In Bellmore-Merrick the taxpayers have to hire one for each elementary district and one for the high school district. This is absurd. Put it this way, when we cannot afford to pay more taxes and the pensions and salaries continue at this pace, LITTLE HOUSE on the prairie one school districts will be the rule.

When does it in.

Greg Bashaw

Sunday, March 31, 2013 | Report this
mphoenix5

The people of Baldwin have spoken with their votes. 7% is insane!!!! I voted "NO" to the budgets because I didn't see ANY concession from the Superintendent, 3 assistant Superintendents, directors or assistants of assistants. I absolutely support the teachers and students, many of my family members are teachers. I DO NOT support helping the Superintendent keep up his Mercedes payments. The key word here is "budget" not "bottomless wallet". I'm asking for austerity, frugality and common sense.

-Mary

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | Report this
mphoenix5

The people of Baldwin have spoken with their votes. 7% is insane!!!! I voted "NO" to the budgets because I didn't see ANY concession from the Superintendent, 3 assistant Superintendents, directors or assistants of assistants. I absolutely support the teachers and students, many of my family members are teachers. I DO NOT support helping the Superintendent keep up his Mercedes payments. The keyword here is "budget" not "bottomless wallet". I'm asking for austerity, frugality and common sense.

-Mary

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | Report this
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