Letter to the Editor

Support the North Bellmore School District budget on June 19


To the Editor:

I’m disappointed that our elementary school budget did not pass. Parents are angry, and our community members are fed up with the high taxes, but it’s important to note that our district did present a school budget that was at the state-mandated tax cap. I believe they are being fiscally responsible and will always do their best with the tools and funds available to help our students succeed! The budget had 51.8 percent “yes” votes, and would have passed under standard simple majority rules, had the community-submitted transportation propositions not required us to pass our budget this year by a supermajority. We had only 2,500 people vote out of 20,000 residents and 1,000 families.

I understand some people may have been confused by the vote, and the multiple propositions, but the ballot had all the information necessary on it, and was written in accordance with state education department rules. Further, the district hosted multiple meetings for hours at a time fully explaining all of the unique aspects of the ballot. Plus, many of us posted summaries explaining the vote in painstaking detail. Please, if you still have a concern with the budget in general, I suggest you contact the school district and discuss your concerns with them.

As a very involved and informed member of our school system, community and PTAs for a lot of years now, I attend many meetings each month, ask the tough questions, analyze the data, make suggestions and push for change when necessary, and I can honestly tell you, in my heart of hearts, that I have full faith in our current administration, board and programs. I know the elementary district has a solid 3-5 year plan in place to continue striving for excellence and taking our district to the next level. I ask that you all strongly consider supporting our school system and passing our budget at the revote on June 19.

Regardless of the reason some might have chosen to vote “no” for the school budget, you need to try to remember that all North Bellmore children benefit from a strong school system. And we, as homeowners and stakeholders, benefit from having a community that supports its schools and maintains our home values. We should be thrilled that people move to our town for our schools and its excellent services. I understand it’s sometimes hard to compare apples to apples (programs, cost per pupil, ratings, administration, salaries, etc.) based on our setup — since we are two separate districts (North Bellmore community-based, grades K-6, and a combined Central High School District, grades 7-12). Unfortunately, some like to only focus on the differences between districts and not the outstanding areas we are ahead in.

For example, not having foreign language from kindergarten on, but yet we are way ahead of other districts with security measures in all our buildings. Well, I don’t want to compare ourselves to surrounding districts ... I want others to compare themselves to us! Our district has piloted many programs, is ahead of the pack in security, is at the forefront of grant writing and is currently the main data behind Senator John Brooks’ bill that he’s bringing forward to implement a better state aid formula for schools. Everyone should know the full extent of what our district is doing to lessen the burden for us as taxpayers. We have administrators and a board that are leading the charge to get the state to hear us and help ease the tax burden we all shoulder. Everyone seems to forget that Long Island pays high taxes to New York State and does not get its fair share back in the form of state aid. Rest assured, our district is leading the fight to correct that — not only for our district, but for all school districts. We may pay a lot in taxes but we get an even greater non-monetary return: Education is priceless!

Too many people put blinders on when they’re looking at the elementary school budget and not keeping in perspective that this is the system that builds the educational foundation for our future generations. Look at the accomplishments of our students as they go on to middle school and high school; our graduation rates, our percentage of students that take AP and college level courses, the number of students that go on to college, the military, technical school or leave high school career ready! Our two districts combined are amazing, and I’m afraid people are losing sight of that!

I am a member and administrator of multiple local Facebook groups and quite a few people are pushing the boundaries (or have already far surpassed them) of what is socially acceptable to post, but I’m glad most of the dialogue is constructive. People are opening up lines of communication and discussing why some are for or against the budget, what works and what doesn’t, what concerns people and what accomplishments others are proud of. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinions, but please — let’s all be respectful of each other and keep the debates polite. Please keep it more informational and factual … rumors don’t help at all. Let’s work together to find a way to be proactive and promote all the good things that our town, community and schools should be proud of and make a list of things we’d like to see changed and bring the ideas forward. Many may not agree, but we do, in fact, have, a very receptive team in the central office and on the board, which is always open to hear what the community has to say.

I’d like to band together and get the word out about the revote on June 19 — whether you’re for or against the budget. That’s a personal choice! It’s important to remember our total property taxes are not all due to the school budget. Other units receive funds too, such as library, fire, Town of Hempstead, Nassau County, etc. Additionally, our community is made up of approximately 94 percent homeowners — we do not have the business base to help offset the cost of our taxes.

I’m sure most everyone will agree with me that it’s in our best interest to maintain and encourage excellence in our already strong school district. This is a great community to raise our children in (even if your children are already grown), and I for one am proud of what we have accomplished in these last six or so years since the district underwent a trying time when a beloved community school was closed, administration changed and we started making positive strides towards a bright future. We may have been broken but we are being put back together, stronger and better than before.

Jo-Ann Erhard,

North Bellmore