Weitzman's attention to special district expenditures is to be applauded. My experience is that many special districts are patronage pots that are just as corrupt as every other level of government, however...
A typical ploy is to point at the other guy to distract attention from the real problems which may be much more significant and politically more uncomfortable. Form a committee, hold a conference, hold a symposium when the fire gets too hot and maybe they can redirect scrutiny. For perspective, the data presented at the Hofstra conference indicated that total special district expenditure (excluding schools) was approximately $414 million annually and we could expect only marginal savings (referred to as pennies on several occasions). Let's say we can save some 10 percent or $40 million, which, of course, is substantially more than pennies and is nothing to be ignored; but New York State has a budget that exceeds $100 billion and member items (Pure Pork) alone exceed $200 million. Drop member items, which are strictly payoffs to friends of our state senators and assemblymen, and we would eliminate more than five times the most optimistic estimate for savings in the special districts. The county budget is $2.7 billion, which includes care and feeding for over 500 political appointees in waste centers such as the Board of Elections and OTB where friends and convicted felons (politicians) go to drain the public trough as payoff for their unthinking loyalty to (either) party. The county jail should outsource high-risk prisoners to Rikers Island and equip people who have failed to make bail (nonviolent misdemeanors) with Martha Stewart bracelets and release them and consolidate the handful of remaining prisoners with Suffolk County. Consolidate Nassau County Medical Center with the existing world-class independent hospital groups, North Shore, Catholic Health, Winthrop and South Nassau, and turn the existing structure into the new county administrative center, saving hundreds of millions. And, finally, politicians at all levels could really demonstrate fiscal responsibility by reducing their egregious medical and pension benefits to levels comparable to those that exist for the rest of society and we would save billions. These saving opportunities are much simpler to implement than attempting to streamline the operation of 200 special districts that will result in savings of relative nickels and dimes. If only we had politicians with character who want to serve the people first not just themselves.
Physician, heal thyself. We shouldn't hold our breath but rather our wallet whenever there is a politician in the room. Special district reform is certainly appropriate, but don't let the smoke they're blowing blind us from the big waste that is driving our children to North Carolina and our jobs to China.
The future success of Manhasset schools will be greatly affected by two votes next week. The first vote, for the bond referendum on Wednesday, Feb. 7, is critical to addressing the crumbling infrastructure in all three of our school buildings. The projects that will be funded by this bond relate to fundamental issues of health, safety and security and, as such, require our support.
The other vote, for state senator on Tuesday, Feb. 6, may have an even greater impact on the quality of our schools in the future. The structural problems that have resulted in spiraling increases in the cost of education such as health care costs, unfair school aid distribution formulas coupled with unfunded state mandates, can only be addressed at the state level. Instead of fighting among ourselves over the equivalent of a nice dinner out, we should be uniting with not only each other but with other like-minded communities that believe in quality education, to ensure that whichever of the two candidates that are elected understands the special problems facing our school districts and ensures that the solutions embraced at the state level do not destroy the quality of education we've built and supported over the years. We need representatives in Albany who will lobby for a fairer distribution of school aid, for the funding of state mandates at the state level not at the local level, and for reform of the health care system that will control the spiraling costs of health care. These are the reasons we are faced with a bond referendum next week. Funding of routine maintenance was deferred over the years because of these uncontrollable costs. Instead of blaming our local volunteer school board members who have tried over the years to address these issues as best they could at the local level, we should be focused instead on making sure our elected representatives in Albany work for us to solve the issues at the state level. The future of strong, successful school districts like Manhasset depend on it.