Written by Senator Carl L. Marcellino, Friday, 12 February 2010 00:00
As a former school teacher and school board member, I read with great interest the Feb. 1 Record Pilot article entitled, North Shore Schools Budget Will Likely Involve Staff Cuts. I can appreciate the budget challenges school districts face in these most difficult times. However, there are a few issues that I would like to address.
North Shore School District Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick is correct when he objects to the MTA Payroll tax. When the concept was first introduced last year, I met with my superintendents to warn them of this devastating proposal and to gain their support for its defeat. I said it was the worst tax I had ever seen proposed. When I voted against the tax, I warned it would devastate our schools, our businesses, our hospitals and our not-for-profits. When the governor signed it into law, I denounced this endless tax as a job killer and a property tax escalator. Of the nine Long Island senators, only two voted for the tax, Senators Foley and C. Johnson of the 21 Long Island Assembly members only three voted for this tax, Lavine, Schimel and Hooper. As Long Islanders we should be speaking with one voice.
“Mandates” is a universal term that encompasses many things. Yes, pensions are required for public employees but they are based on a percentage of the salaries that are negotiated by individual school districts. This year a new Tier V proposal has been approved. The Tier V plan will reduce pension cost for the District on employees who begin on or after Jan. 1.
That being said most mandates come from the Board of Regents or through the federal government; legislative mandates can be counted on one hand. New legislation S5523 has been introduced to help relieve school districts of some burdensome mandates and establish various efficiencies, with a goal toward reducing costs.
Everyone knows that this is a difficult budget year, both at the state and local level. We all need to find ways to do more with less. Long Island is willing to do its part, but our schools should not be asked to bear a larger burden than any other region of the state. I will do my part to ensure that our districts get their fair share and I look forward to working with Dr. Melnick to find new and creative ideas to keep costs down.