Opinion

The Levittown Property Owners Association met on April 14, 2009 with Vice President Andy Booth presiding in the absence of President Jim Morrow. The guest speaker was Levittown Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Herman A. Sirois, who discussed the 2009/10 school budget. For the most part, his remarks were responses to questions directed to him by a disturbed and concerned audience.

Dr. Sirois defended the many hours and hard work done by the board to keep the tax increase below 4 percent (about 3.9 percent) in light of the economic "hard times" now being experienced at all levels. The budget was audited last year, Sirois said, but he admitted we are "spending less, but getting less for our money." He noted that he came to the district in 1981 and will be retiring in two years.

The many questions directed to the superintendent by the audience were a clear indication of just how concerned homeowners are. They included: "If school taxes continue to go up by 4-5 percent a year, what will they be like five years from now? No STAR money will be coming to homeowners this year, there's a new 2.5 percent energy tax, increases in state, county, local taxes (mostly made up of school taxes), when is enough reached? Why do pupil enrollment figures decrease yet teacher hiring increases? How do we compare with other districts? Can't school personnel consider salary caps or tighten belts? What about class size - some programs have small numbers. Do we ever lay off teachers or just keep hiring more? Why do we cut programs, then put them back in the budget?" etc.

Members complained about the way board of education meetings are run, often going past midnight, how it's hard to speak up to request a cut in programs when "cute little kids are paraded to ask to keep their favorite teachers or programs." Seniors especially are hit hard, as one man said, "Has anyone here got a raise lately?" Another member remarked that she takes two life-sustaining medications she won't be able to afford on a fixed income with no STAR money and the increase in energy and local taxes. One man remarked: "This is Levittown - we're not Lattingtown or Brookville. We need board members with brains to fix our taxes. Has anyone ever heard 'We can't afford it.' Who's going to pay? We don't have the money." "Are there ever teacher layoffs or is their union too powerful?"

Some of these questions and comments were answered, most were not. Sirois did say that the closing of Laurel Lane School would mean transferring the two programs there to LMEC (Levittown Memorial Education Center) and renting the school (not selling it). He also stated: "The investigation on fuel storage tanks is in Phase 1." We agreed to invite the four candidates running for the two positions on the school board to the next meeting on May 14.

Complaints were voiced about the poor road maintenance of local streets with potholes caused by winter weather.

The next meeting of the LPOA will be on May 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Levittown Public Library Community Room. Candidates for the Levittown School Board will be on hand to answer any questions or concerns.


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