Herricks residents will vote on a new school budget on Tuesday, May 15. The proposed budget increase, approximately six percent, will increase the average homeowner's taxes by 8.47 percent or 8.81 percent, if two additional bond proposals are approved. Some issues to consider when casting your vote:
1) Herricks has hired a new schools superintendent with a three year contract that includes a salary package of $205,000 per year ($195,000 base and $10,000 in tax sheltered annuity payments). The contract guarantees a minimum nine percent salary increase over three y ears, yielding a guaranteed minimum compensation of $22,550 by June 2004. Not too shabby for a public service job. There is something bizarre about paying a local school superintendent more than we pay the governor of this state.
2) The proposed budget provides $300,000 per year to create new positions as assistant principals for each of the three elementary schools. The district will title these new positions as "lead teacher," so the public will not know these positions as assistant principals. The elementary school principals are well compensated ($110,000-120,000 range) and have adequate capable clerical and maintenance staffs to assist them in their duties. This is a blatant attempt by the administration to enlarge the school district bureaucracy by creating unnecessary administrative positions. Assistant principals may be needed at the middle and high school secondary levels, but it is outrageous to create three positions for this function at the much smaller elementary schools. It demonstrates the administration's insensitivity toward the overburdened taxpayers of this community.
3) The tax increase from last year's bond referendum will begin to appear on the tax bills in 2002. The flawed demographic report, which was hyped to create a sense of urgency and alarm regarding projected student enrollment, proved to be at odds with recently released federal census data, which showed population levels in the Herricks community declining, not increasing.
4) County contract employees have been surveying and photographing residential property throughout the community as part of the property tax reassessment, which will impact tax bills in 2003. Despite some improvement in the county's fiscal situation, most homeowners realistically expect that reassessment will mean higher property taxes.
5) In addition to the budget vote and the election of a trustee for the school board, two additional bond proposal are on the ballot. The combined proposals would fund the purchase of nine new school buses and reduce mileage limits for transportation eligibility, so students not currently eligible could ride the new buses to school. The combined cost of both proposals would be $824,000 plus interest on the bonds.
This year all residents will cast their votes at the Herricks Community Center, not at the district elementary schools where they have voted in previous years. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. If these issues are of concern to you, make time to vote on Tuesday, May 5.
Timothy F. O'Leary