The Middle Country School District in Suffolk County faces a $10.3 million budget deficit in 2012-13 because of Governor Cuomo’s vaunted 2 percent property-tax levy cap, so Middle Country is considering eliminating its pre-school program, reducing full-day kindergarten to a half-day and axing sports and after-school clubs for middle and high school students, according to News12.
Rather than being a panacea for all that ails weary taxpayers, the cap will be a body blow to a district that is already struggling with declines in population, median household income and property values.
Cuomo said that the cap would offer tax relief. News flash: Taxes will still go up under the cap, only by a percentage point or two less than they did previously. The trouble is, the cap will act like a tourniquet to school districts, cutting off desperately needed funding at a time when the stakes couldn’t be higher for students.
We are only now beginning to see why a tax cap is so dangerous for our schools. It wrests control of our districts from taxpayers and gives it to Albany, which, to my mind, doesn’t see the individual, very human problems and peculiarities of districts the way our local boards of education do.
Mark my words –– the ultimate goal of the tax cap is to eliminate local districts and bring schools under the control of county governments, which are run by elected leaders whose primary objective is to remain in office as long as possible. Once parents are fed up with years of cutting to the bone, the politicos will swoop in, chanting about the need to consolidate school districts under the county umbrella, I predict.
Sorry, I just don’t trust county governments to run our schools. In Nassau, our elected officials have traditionally remained in charge by promising to keep taxes level even as inflation rises. As a result, hundreds of workers have been laid off and services have been slashed.
Now we see the same scenario about to unfold in our schools. Because of the tax cap, student services will inevitably decline, except in the richest districts like Jericho, which last year passed its budget with more than 70 percent of the vote. That means it has the ability to override the cap if it wants to.