We four are former members of the Manhasset Board of Education (BOE), with 27 years of collective experience, having served nine three-year terms. We have 11 children between us, all of whom will have graduated from Manhasset High by the end of this June. Three of us also attended Manhasset public schools in our youth. We are also taxpayers.
During this time of intense public scrutiny of the mission and costs of public education, we offer this open letter to the community to urge you to vote “YES” for the proposed school budget on May 21.
Manhasset Public Schools: The Pension Contribution Stabilization Programs
Total pension contributions in the 2013-14 Preliminary Budget were $8.1 million, an increase of $2.1 million over 2012-13.
Contributions are mandated by New York State and based on actuarially determined contribution rates set annually by each plan. The rates for 2013-14 are: 16.25 percent for the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) and 20.9 percent for the Employees Retirement System for support personnel (ERS). These actuarially determined contribution rates are called ARCs.
This is the fifth in a series of articles from CACLA, in which we discuss the subject of unfunded mandates and how they impact the Manhasset Public School District. It is this committee’s goal to educate the community on this subject matter in particular, as it has significant current and long-term ramifications.
An unfunded mandate is a statute or regulation (coming from the state or federal government) that requires, in this case, a local public school district to fulfill the requirements of the mandate without providing a source for the necessary funding. The only revenue source a public school district has to pay for an unfunded mandate is the property taxes paid by its residents.
Yes, in Manhasset, we have one of the best schools in the country. Yes, our teachers are hard working. Yes, we have improved the facilities, but the facts are louder than words. According to sources in the Manhasset education system (and please do verify them…)
1. It costs us over $23,000 per child per year. That is more than the average we pay for a college education. It makes no sense.
My husband Mark was offered a job on Long Island in 1994. We had to leave Boston behind and find a new place to call home. We were newly married, no kids and we were buying a home during a recession. We wanted to invest in a community where we could not only be a part of it, but also feel good about the money we were spending to purchase a home. We quickly learned that Manhasset offered great schools and an amazing commute to NYC.
I researched back to 1973 and discovered that Manhasset held its home values better than most Long Island towns for those two reasons – great schools and great commute/proximity to NYC. We were convinced it was a place to invest in and bought a home in Manhasset and began a great life here.
When I wrote to the Manhasset Press in early December about the removal of healthy, mature trees from Shelter Rock Road and Searingtown Road little did I realize the amount of spontaneous agreement this would foster in my fellow neighbors. But there it would have rested had it not been for the fabulous efforts of Pat Grace. The stories over the last few weeks have represented local newspaper investigative journalism at its very best and I can’t do enough to praise the initiative taken by Pat and her team.
Could I urge the Press not to let this go? As Pat says, there must be a paper trail. Many of us witnessed the mindless vandalism at the time and were powerless to stop it from continuing. Now it is time for those responsible to pay. We should not be satisfied until the county officials on whose watch this occurred are banished from office for good, the company that performed it is out of business and, if deliberate wrongdoing is proven, its owners are in jail.
What motive would a Manhasset resident have for voting “yes” for the school budget? Most certainly it is of the utmost importance to give our children the finest education to support their future in a very competitive world. Over 20 years ago my husband Dante and I purchased our home in Manhasset with the dream of raising our future family in a community that would provide the finest in education with neighbors possessing similar values. It never entered our minds that someday these dreams for our children would be challenged and perhaps compromised.
Common sense tells me that our dreams do not reflect all of the community – some without the need to educate their children in the public school system, others without children to educate, and others who simply cannot afford the school taxes necessary to maintain the highest quality in education. What else may motivate a Manhasset homeowner to vote yes in the upcoming school budget vote?
It seems pretty clear to me that our school leaders have been fiscally responsible over the last 5 years. Look at the 5-year average budget increase of 2.13 percent and average tax levy increase of 2.55 percent. That record demonstrates the district’s been living in the spirit of the 2 percent tax cap. It is doubly impressive given that benefit costs have skyrocketed over the same period, enrollment has grown and programming has remained intact.
We have great schools. We have great leadership that is responsive and fiscally responsible. For that, our school budget deserves our vote. I am voting YES on May 21, and you should too. Our schools and our kids are worth at least that.
At the April 17 board of education meeting, the Manhasset BOE voted unanimously to adopt the 2013-2014 budget that results in the following:
A 2.56 percent budget-to-budget increase
A 5.98 percent tax levy-to-tax levy increase
Developing a school budget at any time can be challenging. These days it is further complicated by the constraints imposed by the New York State Property Tax Cap. So, I would like to recognize the efforts by the superintendent, school administrators, the board of education and the business office to develop a school budget that maintains this community’s commitment to academic excellence.
A Manhasset school budget that did live within the constraints of the property tax cap (which is actually 1.43 percent, not the often touted 2 percent) would severely impact our academic programs and curriculum and obliterate our extensive co-curricular activities at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
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