If you haven’t already heard, Nassau County has opted into a state program to offer property tax savings to homeowners whose homes suffered a decrease in value resulting from Superstorm Sandy. The program is called the NYS Hurricane Sandy Assessment Relief Program.
Through this program, Nassau County will adjust, retroactively, the property assessment to account for losses in value due to Sandy for the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 tax years. Eligible homeowners will receive either a check reimbursing them for taxes already paid or a credit on taxes yet to be paid. The amount of a tax refund, credit or assessment reduction will depend upon the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) damage assessment determination and/or inspections that were conducted by the Department of Assessment based on bills paid to licensed contractors or paid homeowner insurance claims.
John Owens’ column reported the Board of Regents announced that on the upcoming April statewide tests, they’d take “10 minutes off the English exam.” Owens wrote, “Of course, in context, it’s not much. Our kids still can expect to sit through nearly three hours of testing.” He’s right, but I’d like to amend his “not much” to “too much: 10 minutes too much.” Because allowing kids to leave the testing room 10 minutes early will do more harm than good — and here’s why: I think the Board of Regents needs some Common Core courses intended to improve both critical thinking and problem-solving, given their foolish plan which stipulates that “students in grades 5-8 will be allowed to leave testing areas 10 minutes earlier on one day ... if everyone in the class completes the exam in less than the time allowed.”
Things happen for a reason and if you look closely enough you may find signs that, no doubt, the universe is progressing as it should. There is a synergy to it, a cycle. I was reminded of this just recently by two seemingly unconnected events.
I’ll begin with Leonard Wurzel, the long-time (22-years, to be exact) mayor of Sands Point who recently passed away at 95. He supposedly retired from his office in 2011 but anyone who knew Mayor Wurzel also knew that was impossible for him. He loved his village and the people in it too much to simply walk away, even if it was much-deserved. I know that his passion and joy were wrapped up in his public service.
I congratulate parents and teachers on their protests on Common Core curriculum and testing. I wonder if the authors of Common Core have any idea of the cognitive readiness of the children for the content at each grade level. The commissioner is throwing at the audience “educanese” policies which are meant to intimidate. To the credit of the audience he is not succeeding. In my 49 years of teaching I have I never witnessed such widespread disapproval of an education program; and confusion. But we have never had such radical change thrust on us.
You may recall that I recently called for the resignation of New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King. The initiatives he has undertaken in his brief tenure as Commissioner of the State Education Department, including his roll-out of the Common Core curriculum, testing, teacher evaluations, and gathering of student data, are shaping up to be among the most controversial issues I’ve ever dealt with as a public servant. It’s easy to see why. These changes have created confusion among parents, anxiety for our children, and put life-long educators at odds with the department of education in Albany. This was only exacerbated when he canceled town hall meetings on the issue.
So on Wednesday, Nov. 13, I moderated a forum, coordinated with the 15 school districts from our Seventh Senate District, at Mineola High School. Dr. King attended and fielded questions from parents, educators, school board members and even students on the Common Core standards and rollout, teacher evaluations, testing, and student privacy. We had more than 800 in the audience and over 2,000 watching on a live feed via the Internet.
While the result achieved on Election Day is not what I had hoped, I want to express my sincerest thanks and appreciation to all the people who supported me in this election and encouraged me to run again. We ran a great campaign, and I am indebted to my supporters and staff who worked so hard over this last 6 months. It was clear that whether you agreed with it or not, we could not overcome the message of not raising County property taxes.
It was the greatest honor of my career to have served the people of Nassau County as Comptroller from 2002 to 2009. I never intended to be nor considered myself to be a politician. I was a financial professional for 35 years in the private sector with a stint as Village Mayor and only ran for Comptroller in 2001 because the County had failed financially, and I believed that applying my skills and experience towards the service of others could make a difference. Working with an excellent, professional staff, I know we achieved that goal. Public service can be a noble profession, and I admire those good people who seek to serve in public office. In no other profession is your work on display for the entire community to see and subject to such intense scrutiny.
John Owens’ column “Public School Data: Numbers Beyond Belief” deserves a great big “attaboy” for going to the heart of the problem. Being a math teacher, I would say to the kids, that in statistics, “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” And when the city presented data that “garbage in results in garbage out,” they are trying to quantify the unquantifiable. In my career I’ve seen some of this, but the use by NYC is mind-blowing.
What fraud. But the New York State Education Department seems to be promoting this in many ways, including coming up with a number to rate teachers. What an insult to teachers to think that the efforts to motivate kids, the creativity, the dedication, the ability to put on a “dynamic show” five times a day, five days a week can be reduced to a number.
If you’re a person who values common sense, then prepare yourself to be disgusted and angry. I’m about to tell you about a sensible piece of legislation that’s long overdue, but is being blocked by the New York State Assembly, which is shamelessly pandering to its constituents with your tax money. In fact, you may be shocked to learn that we even need this legislation at all, let alone that it’s being systematically stymied by some in Albany.
Currently, New York issues something called Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to our welfare recipients. It works much like a debit card and it allows us to help our needy neighbors in an efficient yet dignified way. The system conveniently provides a Food Stamp and a Cash Assistance component all on one card. As it stands, strict regulations dictate what can be purchased with the Food Stamp allotment. Cash assistance, on the other hand, is intended to pay for items not covered by Food Stamps, such as soap, toothpaste, school supplies and toiletries. To be clear, there are no restrictions whatsoever on the use of the Cash Assistance component. None. It’s doled out like cash.
Karen Heckler writes “Hicksville’s revitalization is nothing to fear.” Courage and confidence in free markets by the leaders in the Town of Oyster Bay are what is necessary for real positive growth and change. Too often a community in their interest for “attractive restaurants, retail shops and maybe even some cultural arts” decides to amend the zoning ordinances to such specifics, attempting to dictate the change desired. Excessive regulation and uncertainty of Government approvals are what drives away entrepreneurs, investment capital and wonderfully innovative new development.
Real positive change comes from freedom and less Government restrictions to use, density and architecture. Sure, there is fear of risk in change. But often if the change is a mistake, the mistake is later corrected and redeveloped into a success.
Could you imagine if, tomorrow, school districts across New York State had to absorb more than 400,000 new students? Or picture your local school enrolling hundreds of new students and the effect it would have on class sizes, let alone our ability to provide books and materials, desks and lockers. Our current facilities could in no way withstand that kind of blow. In each district, new schools would have to be immediately built and hundreds of teachers, aides, and support staff would have to be hired. With the average cost to educate a student in New York at over $20,000 annually, you could bet our already sky-high school taxes would zoom to astronomical levels.
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