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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Comptroller: L.I. districts pushed to the fiscal brink
(Page 2 of 3)
That’s why Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2 percent property-tax cap is potentially so damaging to Long Island schools. First we weren’t receiving our fair share of state aid. Then, in June 2011, the governor virtually cut off Long Island districts’ only real and dependable revenue stream by signing the cap into law.

Only two and a half years later, we’re already seeing the Island’s districts begin to crack under the strain the cap is creating. In a separate report issued last week, DiNapoli said that two Long Island districts –– Bay Shore and Sachem –– are under “significant” financial stress. Seven more –– Lawrence, Valley Stream District No. 24, Copiague, East Islip, East Moriches, East Quogue and West Islip –– are under “moderate” fiscal stress. And five –– Kings Park, Manhasset, Northport-East Northport, Seaford and Wyandanch –– are “susceptible” to financial stress.

Any district under financial stress will likely have to reduce expenses. Many others will as well. To which the anti-tax crowd will sing, “Hallelujah!”

The tax cap, however, is a blunt-force instrument, a simple solution that applies no creative thinking to the complex problem at hand: Long Island is a very expensive place to live and thus to educate children.

The anti-tax crowd often notes that salaries comprise roughly 75 percent of a school district’s budget. So, tax-cap proponents say, just cut salaries and districts will have little problem meeting expenses.

Perhaps. But they will have a hard time attracting qualified educators, who will seek out cheaper places to live if they can’t earn enough to survive here.

According to the real-estate service Zillow.com, the average Nassau County home now sells for $431,000; the average Queens home, $467,000; and the average Suffolk County home, $374,500. We’re not talking about Gold Coast mansions. We’re talking about middle-class homes –– 1,750 square feet, 1½ bathrooms.

To afford a $431,000 house, you must have a 20 percent down payment of $82,600, and in order to keep your housing costs at the recommended 30 percent of your income, you need an annual household income of at least $114,720 to make a monthly mortgage payment of $1,868 plus another $1,000 per month in property taxes.
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