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Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Comptroller: L.I. districts pushed to the fiscal brink

I interrupt your regularly scheduled column to announce that I am on Twitter. Follow me @scottbrinton1. Thank you. Now, back to the show.

New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report on Jan. 14 titled “School District Revenue Growth Slows.” Before I get to it, a quick primer on education funding.

School districts are run much like businesses. They take in revenue and incur expenses. If revenues fail to meet expenses, they must cut expenditures. Districts, by law, must balance their budgets.

School districts have a limited number of revenue streams –– property taxes, state and federal aid and, on occasion, rental properties. Generally speaking, expenditures –– salaries and benefits, transportation, building maintenance, electricity and heating oil/natural gas –– rise according to the inflation rate, around 3 percent.

Two of school districts’ revenue streams –– state and federal aid –– have declined for years, forcing districts to raise property taxes to meet expenses. Nowhere has the decline in state and federal aid been felt more than on Long Island. When I began covering the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District 15 years ago, state aid accounted for 19 percent of the district’s budget. Today it is down to 13 percent.

When you suffer that kind of revenue decline from one stream, you must make hard choices. At times, Bellmore-Merrick has raised property taxes. At others, it has cut expenses, including teaching positions.

Here’s the thing about DiNapoli’s revenue growth report: In it, he notes that state aid accounts for 38 percent of districts’ budgets. But he’s not talking about the average Long Island district. He’s referring to the average for all school districts across the state. Here the average is typically much less than 38 percent, as in Bellmore-Merrick, meaning that our districts depend far more on property taxes to fund the schools than anywhere else in the state.

Nassau County school officials have long complained that our districts receive just 25 cents for every dollar we send in income taxes to Albany, whereas many upstate districts get 50 cents, and New York City, more than that.


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Sorry Scott we need that 2% max cap on school taxes otherwise school districts would have no fiscal restraint.

If Long Islanders actually knew how much teachers in their districts make and what kind of pensions they receive I doubt more than 10% would be against the cap. The average teacher on LI makes 80k -100k a year and can look at a pension of 50%-70% of base salary after 25 years. Retiring at age 55 then collecting a pension for the next 30 years is killing us.

Long Island needs to do these things:

Consolidate all districts either by County or Town (Hempstead, Oyster Bay, North Hempstead) to reduce all the duplication at the top.

Get rid of the pension and make it a 401k with a guaranteed contribution by the state.

Make teachers pay for health insurance like the rest of us.

Tell teacher who have retired if you pension is over 60K a year we are cutting it by 10%.

Make it easier to fire bad teachers

School taxes should not be based on property values but should become an income tax like in NYC. Someone may live in a $500k house but have bought it at $150k so they are getting killed in taxes because they live in a nice area.

Your idea of adding apartments to houses would only cause increased enrollments and higher taxes.

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