Friday, 11 May 2012 00:00
When does 1 + 1 = 3? The answer is, ironically, when it involves schools and education. Specifically, the new math takes over when the school budget and the tax levy are touted as staying within the NYS-imposed 2 percent tax cap. But in this first-year test of the new hard-won tax cap, the tax levy will actually rise nearly 3 percent because our NYS Legislature cannot enact any legislation without loopholes. Neither can they find the political will to eliminate or reduce the state mandates that are not adequately funded by the school aid that is provided by the state. So this makes the loopholes necessary.
The Glen Cove School Board has, with some reluctance, decided that it is politically necessary to refrain from piercing the tax cap in this first year of its existence. This is to “test the waters” for next year’s budget. With a possible massive bond issue referendum to be floated after this year’s budget vote, the additional debt that the Glen Cove School District intends to take on will result in one of two things: it will force the board to propose a budget next year that exceeds the tax cap, or because of the aforementioned loopholes, the additional tax monies needed next year to service this new debt will be exempt from the cap.
The fact that this year’s budget will nominally meet the 2 percent tax cap is not a reason for complacency, nor does it justify not going to the polls to cast your vote. Those who believe that the problem with Glen Cove’s School District can be solved by constantly throwing money at it – often good money after bad – would like nothing better than to see this budget pass with the same piddling number of voters showing up at the polls. This will only encourage those who plan to pierce the tax cap next year that the necessary 60 percent of voter approval will be achievable.
What is needed this May 15 is an overwhelming increase in the number of taxpayers who cast their votes in an election that involves 60 percent of our property taxes. This will show that next year’s likely attempt to bring in a budget exceeding the cap will not be a foregone conclusion. Furthermore, on May 15, voters have the opportunity to alter the makeup of the board of education in a big way – three out of seven seats. The tax cap, though flawed, is another step in the long fight to turn back the tide of the spiraling cost of living in New York. If we remember the period that ended in the 1990s, in which Glen Cove taxpayers were denied the right to even vote on their school budget, more than the usual suspects (just 10 percent of the registered electorate) need to weigh-in on school district decisions, to continue this battle.
Two candidates that need to be on the board of education and need your vote are Dave Huggins and Grace Slezak. Despite his squeamishness about staying within the cap, I am supporting Dave Huggins, because it is refreshing to hear someone discuss candidly the real problems facing Glen Cove’s educational system without trying to be politically correct. Mr. Huggins has not shied away from discussing these issues publicly. The problems are fundamental and won’t go away by simply throwing more money at them.
I know Grace Slezak, and she represents a fresh set of eyes to examine why Glen Cove’s performance ranks us near the bottom, despite awards like Blue Ribbon School and Greatest Place for Young People. Grace is not a part of the education establishment and her business sense and independent perspective will serve us well. What she has learned through her business interactions in the community – with families moving into and out of Glen Cove – is all about the delicate balance that must be found, to provide both a quality educational system and a bearable tax burden.
Be sure to vote on March 15.