Written by Tara Bono Thursday, 27 February 2014 00:00
Over the years, I have written about the need to keep young people on Long Island and have brainstormed with other young professionals on how we can get more of our peers to stay; I've heard from elected leaders on the alleged “brain drain” problem, and heard the plight of companies who can’t find and keep talent on Long Island, because many of the best have been smart enough to move from Long Island to a region where they can afford to live.
During that time, I assumed that older generations of Long Islanders shared this concern. I thought they understood that a rapidly changing population is completely unsustainable, and it meant that they would be picking up our tax tab while we move to greener pastures.
Not until this week did I realize I was wrong. At a public meeting of the Island Trees School District, I learned that a brutal and overwhelming majority seemed to not only support increases in taxes, but vehemently reject any proposal that could even potentially bring in young professionals and their children.
The district, like many others, has proposed a solution to the problem of paying to maintain empty buildings due to decreased enrollment—50 percent that of 1963. They are proposing to move the library back to its former home in the middle school, and sell the current library building and another unused building to a developer to build senior housing. The message from the packed auditorium was clear: More families mean more children, which are a threat.
Not until this week did I even consider that I could be one of those people that leave Long Island. This momentary reconsideration had nothing to do with being booed and told to move out of town, but everything to do with the disgust and complete shock coming from learning that I was the only person in a room full of 500 people that were concerned with the long-term sustainability of our district, our budget, our taxes.
Although I can’t say this definitively, judging from the dozens of others who expressed their opinions with disguised coughs, audible groans and even some not-so-discreet belligerent yelling, I would say a strong majority were not in my camp.
Wondering what is so horrible about senior housing and a library relocation? A guerilla Q&A sheet placed at the welcome table spelled out their fears pretty clearly. The three main concerns echoed all night:
First, that senior housing will increase traffic and crime in the area. Anyone who graduated from the district in the last decade knows that broken beer bottles, used syringes and drug baggies litter the fields of the unused schools.
Second, that a middle school is no place for a public library, as students will be forced to walk past homeless and pedophiles that populate it. Growing up in Island Trees, I don’t recall meeting any homeless when I went to the library for Saturday morning book readings.
Lastly, that the proposed development will cause an increase in school-aged children. In addition, they’re concerned that when seniors move into these condos, younger families could move into their homes when they sell them, bringing even more children into the district.
This “True” Q&A sheet also estimated the development would account for 50 extra students, which would yield an annual increase of $1 million dollars in education costs. However, based on the population and budget history of the district, this assumption is simply not the case.
In 1963, the Island Trees School district housed 5,852 students, administration offices, and a library in six buildings. In 2013, although the district had the same amount, or slightly more homes, the district shrunk by half, educating 2,490 students. Census demographics show a clear projected downward trend in age in our town, with a sharp dip in the 20-24 and 25-30 age brackets.
Despite the decrease in population, the budget has continued to rise. In 2008, the annual cost per student was $18,138. This year it is more than $23,000 per student. This is because the budget hinges heavily on things like maintenance, teacher salaries and pensions, utility bills, supplies, etc. Even if new students were to enter the district, it would be incorrect to say that it would cost taxpayers an additional $23,000 per student.
I originally went to the hearing with the goal of convincing the board and the community to allow the proposed development to be open for people of all ages... not just senior citizens. I learned that was I was shooting for the moon, and that there was no chance the community would pass a referendum that allowed young professionals to move into their neighborhood. What I heard was a big “no” to consolidation and efficiency, “no” to affordable housing options to retain their graduates, and “yes” to hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted on unused properties while after-school programs, music and sports are cut.
I understand parents are concerned about the safety of their children, but it is not okay to keep a closed mind and form opinion based on lies and rumors.
I ask the Board of Eduction to slow down and be more transparent. To look at all of the options and provide the community with pros and cons of each. I also ask the parents of the district to calm down and learn more about the development process, knowing that nothing will happen overnight. And for the love of books, don’t discriminate against young people who want to buy your houses one day.
Friday, 18 April 2014 00:00
The Levittown Board of Education unanimously adopted a $198.7 million spending plan for the 2014-2015 school year, which comes with a proposed tax levy increase of 1.62 percent. This represents a $2.1 million increase from last year, for a proposed levy of $133.2 million.
The Levittown school district will receive $49,163,299 in state aid for the 2014-2015 school year, which increased by $690,049 from last year’s budget. The other revenues also show an increase of $684,250 from last year.
In the past seven years, the district received its largest percentage of state aid in 2008-2009 with 30 percent. According to Assistant Superintendent Bill Pastore, state aid has decreased since then, leveling off for the past few years and coming in at slightly below 25 percent for 2014-15.
Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00
On April 8, members of the Levittown Property Owners Association invited all seven candidates in the running for Island Trees School District Board of Education to a “Meet the Candidates” forum. Of the seven only four attended, and only three spoke on the dais.
According to Levittown Property Owners President Diane Kirk, members of the Island Trees School District were invited to attend the forum, but declined stating that they were going to attend their own forum on May 12.
Challenger Brian Fielding, a 1995 Island Trees High School graduate, opened the forum with the promise of more transparency.
Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00
Cantiague Park Senior Men’s Golf League had its first tournament on Thursday April 4. Twenty golfers came out on on a crisp but sunny morning. Charlie Hong was the only man to score under a 40, with a 38 and won for low overall score. Jim O’ Brien scored a 41, and won low overall net in a tie-breaker with Mike Guerriero.
Competition on the nine-hole course is divided into two divisions. Flight A is for players with a handicap of 13 or lower. Flight B is for players with a handicap of 14 or more. The league is a 100 percent handicap league. Any man 55 years or older is eligible for membership. We have many openings for this year, and you can sign up anytime throughout the the season.
Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00
Trevor Williams 166,101
Keith Kyte 137,119,115
Anthony Baio 111,73
Alyssa Williams 141,133,120
Lauren Walpole 114,105,96
Kaitlyn Insinna 106,68,67
Robert Brooler 107,97
Frank Pietraniello 94
Matthew Banfich 140,95
Nicky Barrera 115,99
Jake Mauro 107
Anthony Barrera 97,79
Michael Pietraniello 97,87
Ty Peranzo 95
Steven Tiemer 92
Nick Bevinetto 90,82
Ava Banfich 103,101
Julianna Mauro 103,87
Gianna Centonze 102,91
Victoria Gray 91,87
Mike Rosen 87,86
Steven Brauer 85,83
Stephan Mandola 83
Joey Mohaudt 81
Pantelis Siriodis 80
Kelsey Casperson 85,73
Stephanie Tiemer 71,67
Kathleen Hoffman 68,65
Jason Tiemer 191,169,138
Max Benson 179
Andrew Scarpaci 168,162,148
Avery Benson 151,149,135
Matthew Brezinski 143,110
Ted Fiber 128,115,114
Paul Klein 126,107
Nicholas Pisano 123,115
Billy Walsh 108
Levittown Island trees
Michael Beck 117,89
Zach Pilser 114,110
Sophia Bloom 93,90
Olivia Bloom 81,79
Christian Tucci 88,85
Louis Bonaventura 84,79
Ava Tucci 74,65
— Submitted by the South Levittown Lanes