Long Island School Budget Vote is
May 17th, 2011
See full results Ranked by margin of Victory !
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School property taxes across Long Island are going rise sharply. Schools are trying to plug the hole left by New York state financial aid cut and escalating public employee benefits.
Most of the proposed school budgets are basically taking the money from taxpayers to fill up the employee benefits along with reduced serivces and bigger class sizes thru layoffs. The cost of benefits is going parabolic and without reforms it is going to lead poor education, rising taxes and declicing home values due to rise in property tax making homes less affordable.
Average School Tax increases this year
- Long Island 3.96%
- Nassau 3.42%
- Suffolk 4.54%
95% of LI school budgets pass
With all but Lawrence reporting, more than 95 percent of budgets passed on Tuesday, with proposals rejected in Seaford, Oyster Bay, Westbury, Locust Valley and Fishers Island.
The Seaford, Oyster Bay, Westbury and Locust Valley budget proposals carried significant hikes to the local tax levy -- 8.99 percent in Seaford, 5.4 percent in Oyster Bay, 5.5 percent in Westbury, and 5.81 percent in Locust Valley. The Oyster Bay district is also reeling from school officials' announcement that Oyster Bay High School students will have to retake four Advanced Placement exams. The results were invalidated by the College Board because the school violated a seating policy for test takers, officials said.
Seaford voter Dan O'Brien, 63, said he doesn't usually vote in school elections. But this year, Seaford's nearly 9 percent proposed tax levy increase drove him to the polls despite the afternoon's rain. "I can't go for it, not this time around," he said. "It's become too much."
The message he wanted to send was "they should be a little bit more careful with our money." O'Brien said high taxes were "tough" on both older residents such as him and the younger generation.
"I don't know how they're going to be able to stay here," he said of younger Long Islanders.
Budgets barely passed in a pair of districts where heavy proposed tax increases made passage a hard sell. In Central Islip, where an average home will see a 6.55 percent tax increase, the budget passed by nine votes of more than 1,900 cast, in the unofficial count. In William Floyd, where taxes will rise 12.48 percent for an average home, the budget passed by 15 votes, 2,500-2,485.
In Huntington, the budget passed, but school board president Bill Dwyer was defeated in his re-election bid. Challengers Jennifer Hebert and Adam Spector defeated Dwyer and two other challengers for three-year terms.
Dwyer cast the deciding vote in the school board's controversial decision to close Jack Abrams Intermediate School.
"I haven't seen any improvement in the schools and then they closed Jack Abrams," said voter Vera A. Knight, 60, a Huntington Station resident. "It seems to me the board ignored my community and closed the school. There was no respect. No one was listening, so the board needs to be changed. Some of these people must go."
In Middle County, where the budget passed, board vice president Susan Jacobson was defeated by challenger Daniel Hill, who said during the campaign that the district's per-student spending was too low.
All polls across Long Island were closed at 10 p.m.
The results came at the end of a day when voters considered many budget proposals that reflected deep cuts in state aid. Many residents said at the polls that they felt forced to choose between heavy tax increases and painful cuts to public education.
Proposed budgets total $10.8 billion in education spending in 2011-12, up 2.17 percent from current spending.
Tax levies, the total revenue raised by local property taxes, would rise an average of 3.96 percent Islandwide if all proposed budgets are approved.
The difference between spending and taxes is mostly because of record cuts in state aid to schools totaling $206 million. The reduction includes $89 million in federal jobs money that is not being renewed next year.
On the Island, school taxes account for more than 60 percent of property taxes. Those bills rank among the nation's highest.
In response to the funding crunch, districts' proposed budgets call for slashing more than 2,000 jobs in the coming school year, including more than 1,200 teachers, Newsday found in its annual survey of spending and staffing plans. That would be the biggest wave of staff reductions since the early 1990s.
Few voters at the West Babylon school district's administration building claimed to be happy with a proposed budget that hikes taxes 6.46 percent and eliminates 54 staff positions.
But they were unhappy for different reasons. Some, like Kim McLasky, a classroom aide whose job is one of those being cut, voted for a budget she described as too harsh; retirees Vicky and Joe Miller rejected that same budget because it was "ridiculously high."
McLasky worried that the new budget would weaken music and art, programs she said are worth the money. "I feel the pinch," she said. "We're struggling, but I'm not going to take it out on my child. I'll cut back another way."
Despite some heavy tax increases on the table, some districts struggled with low turnout at midday because of steady rain. Barbara Horsley, assistant superintendent of the Farmingdale school district, said voter turnout was "slightly less" than expected due to the rainy weather.
But many voters who did show up were not shy about expressing their opinions on planned tax increases and proposals to shed staff and programs.
At Howitt Middle School in Farmingdale, voter Thomas Reddy scoffed at the idea that a district plan to trim 39 positions was too deep a cut. Reddy said high teacher salaries have contributed to the need for budget cuts in the district.
"Staff cuts? These guys are making a fortune," Reddy said.
Julianna Difruscio, 20, a nanny whose parents are teachers and who plans on becoming a teacher herself, voted for the West Babylon budget. She was unhappy, though, about reduced funding for special education programs, and said she would have made heavier cuts to sports before touching those programs.
"They can throw balls, but can they read?" she said of the district's students.
Brentwood district officials have said about 90 teaching positions will be eliminated through layoffs and attrition. Under the proposed budget, the high schools, middle schools and freshman center will revert to an eight-period day, and about half of the sports teams -- including all ninth-grade junior varsity teams -- will be eliminated.
Carmelo Gonzalez, 48, a graduate of Brentwood High School, said he voted down the budget and thinks the school could do a lot better.
"I don't want to see the superintendent getting pay increases," he said. "They should be putting some of that aside for the kids. Most of the teachers I have heard are willing to take a pay freeze so that should translate to the top."
Carmen Hannibal, 65, a Bay Shore resident who has lived in the Brentwood district for 30 years, said while taxes are high she would vote for the budget because she didn't want school programs cut. "My youngest's 30. We moved here to better ourselves and if we can't do good by the kids, what's the point?"
At Lindenhurst Middle School, the voter turnout was steady throughout the day, said chief inspector Michele Claud. "It's definitely a big turnout," Claud said. Claud reported about 500 people had voted by 4 p.m.
Voters were torn between approving a hefty 6.89 percent tax increase or rejecting the budget and facing significant program cuts.
"I just thought about the kids and the things they would be taking away from them," said Pam Doyle, 61, in explaining her vote for the budget.
"I don't want austerity for the kids," said Alice Weckerle, 87. "My kids were on austerity and it was not fun. So they'll get my vote for the budget every time."
Weckerle's husband, Kenneth, 87, said he would have preferred to not vote for the budget. "But if you don't vote for it, then they come back and many times they add on to it and stick it down your throat," he said.
Despite a sizable tax increase and a reduction in dozens of teaching positions, many Central Islip residents said they voted to approve the budget.
Jill Falcone, 58, a patient account representative, voted for the budget in part because officials managed to decrease the budget by 2.5 percent while keeping several school programs.
"It's not going up from last year, so I can't complain," she said of the budget.
Meanwhile she said she voted to elect some new school board members who she hopes will better negotiate labor issues with teachers, she said. "I'm just hoping for a fresh set of people who might look at things differently," she said.
However, Joanne Aramini, 52, voted against the budget. "I don't want taxes to go up," she said. "Everything else is going up but our salaries. I'm sick and tired of paying for things that aren't happening. The schools aren't getting better and the kids aren't getting smarter." She said she hopes if the budget fails, officials will come up with better ways of "cutting fat instead of cutting programs."
Read complete article here ...
Voters face another dilemma:
- A growing number of districts are signaling that they intend to boost taxes higher next year if budgets are defeated at the polls than if budgets are approved.
- Some schools like middle country is blackmailing its residents to pass the 6.68% increase or face 21.61% increase under contingency budget.
Last year only 10 budgets failed, let's see what happens this year...
Nothing happened only fewer failed this time !
Click here to see Long Island School Budget 2010-2011 Results