Written by Matthew A. Piacentini Wednesday, 20 July 2011 14:49
As LIPA / National Grid moves to take away the Glenwood Landing plant, and millions in taxes with it, the North Shore Board of Education has had to take action on two fronts – altering its 2011-12 financial plans to accommodate one more hardship and meeting with state officials to try to ease the shock to the school system if the plant decommissioning comes to pass.
First, in the July 14 edition of the Record Pilot, a typo stated that the board voted to change the tax levy, amounting to a $26 per month increase for every $200,000 in home value. That is $26 per year, not month.
At the board's July 7 meeting, the point of concern was that a tax cap is coming down from New York State, likely at the same time that Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano’s move will go through to push millions in tax refund costs onto school districts’ books. North Shore Schools had a $744,587 fund balance this year. The board decided that LIPA’s announcement that it might be causing an $8 to $10 million loss in tax revenue was enough to put some of that balance into a reserve to pay the $1 to $2 million a year in costs that tax refunds could create. (School districts are currently suing Nassau County to stop this.)
Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick added after the meeting that outside of the $744,587, the board did give $655,000 back to the community from an over-funded, state mandated pension reserve.
The board voted to split the $744,587 balance in question, giving half back to the community to offset the tax levy, and putting the other half into a reserve that can legally go toward certioraris. This creates a levy increase of 4.42 percent, instead of the originally estimated 3.95 percent.
During the meeting, Trustee Amy Beyer said, “The decision to put money away is the responsible decision. We did not know any of these issues [tax cap, LIPA plant, when proposing the 2011-12 tax levy]. This is not ‘apples to apples.’” She continued, “It would be easy to be the hero right now… very easy to take the [fund balance] and give it back. It’s much harder to put it aside and take the heat. But we’re making for a better circumstance later.”
New trustee Thomas Knierim agreed: “I think what happened with the power plant is a game changer… we’re going to need every dollar we have for tax certioraris or other things.”
Assistant Superintendent for Business Olivia T. Buatsi, who proposed various options for the board, echoed the sentiment: “We need something to stop the big spike when we are faced [simultaneously with the plant leaving and tax certs from the county].
After the meeting, new board president Carolyn Genovesi told the Record Pilot that the trustees were concerned about communicating with the North Shore community. Town Hall meetings are in the works for September, when they believe residents will be back from summer break and available to focus on the issues at hand.
Regarding the LIPA move, Genovesi told this paper that the board is fighting for an arrangement that does not devastate the schools, or burden the taxpayers.
“This is very unfair, particularly to senior citizens who were told they had a certain tax levy,” she said. “We are meeting with elected officials. Our position is if you are going to impose a closing of a facility, it can’t be done in a way that is a financial shock to the community. We have dealt with the pollution and ugliness of the facility as their host. Now it is only fair to have some kind of stipend, to slowly unroll [the decommissioning] so that it is not felt all in one period of time.”
State Senator Carl Marcellio agreed, telling the Record Pilot, “We are meeting with the Nassau County assessor to determine what the impact might be on the district in various scenarios. The trick is to get something worked out so that the district is not hit all at once. We don’t want them just walking out saying ‘We’re here today paying $20 million…. now… goodbye.’ Then everyone else is hit with the difference.”
Assemblyman Michael Montesano said, “I recently met with the North Shore Board of Education and fellow elected officials to discuss potential ways to mitigate the impact felt by the taxpayer and school district due to these closures. I look forward to continuing this discussion with my fellow elected officials, the Governor, NYS Comptroller DiNapoli, and the NYS Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPS) about other avenues to alleviate the effect to taxpayers.”
Across the aisle, Assemblyman Charles Lavine concurred: “The sudden loss of millions of dollars of real property tax revenue presents an unprecedented danger to the North Shore School District. That district is one of the very best in the United States and we all realize that our quality of life will be severely impaired if North Shore is financially unable to maintain its commitment to outstanding public educational services. I have discussed this issue with representatives of Governor Cuomo's administration and with my contacts at LIPA and National Grid. I will be meeting with other members of the Assembly and the Senate for the school district. I am confident that we will be able to develop financial alternatives that will assist the North Shore School District and the taxpayers whose support is absolutely necessary to its continued success.”
Representatives from LIPA/ National Grid have refused to speak with the Record Pilot.