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Letter: Manhasset Throws Its Kids Under the School Bus

Congratulations Manhasset, the school budget was defeated handily on Tuesday. I get it. Nobody wants to see their taxes increased. I don’t want to see my taxes go up either. I hate paying more taxes. But you know what I hate worse? The decimation of a once proud community.

Manhasset has had two fundamental assets that are the tent poles of attraction to residents and potential homebuyers (I’m not including our thriving shopping on Plandome Road—sarcasm intended).

The first is an easy commute to Manhattan. Great, we still got that one. Aside from spending thirty minutes more at home a day, how does that help your family?

The second is a well-managed, financially responsible school system, dedicated to providing our children with the highest level of education possible.

Last week when voters in this town chose to vote NO to the school budget, they might as well have been pulling the handle of a toilet instead of a voting machine because the whirlpool created by this budget defeat will suck down our school system and undermine the community and your property values.

Think I’m over exaggerating? Let’s take a look at what the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis says, “Unlike most studies in the literature, we find that the price premium parents must pay to buy a house in an area associated with a better school increases as school quality increases. This is true even after controlling for neighborhood characteristics, such as the racial composition of neighborhoods, which is also capitalized into house prices. In contrast to previous studies that use the boundary discontinuity approach, we find that the price premium from school quality remains substantially large, particularly for neighborhoods associated with high-quality schools.” (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, May/June 2010.)

The correlation between property values and the quality of the school system is undeniable. It’s been proven time and time again.

As a result of this budget failure let’s say, for example, a perspective homebuyer decides to offer $10,000 less on a home for sale. That is more then 12 TIMES what the average tax increase would have been.

Why should you support the budget? The altruistic answer is it makes your community better. The financial reason is it keeps your property values high. If the goal is to decrease property taxes by decreasing property values, then we may certainly be on that road. It’s a “cut off your nose to spite your face” logic that undermines both education and home value. What irony that those who fear a decline in the value of their homes vote down the budget.

Everybody thinks their taxes are too high, yet nobody wants to give anything up. For the parents with kids in the school system that voted NO (or the parents that didn’t bother to vote at all), please check off what you’re willing to give up:

Small class size.

Up to twenty-five fewer teachers.

Elimination of sports programs.

All clubs and after-school programs.

OVER $1 million in additional reductions that haven’t been outlined.

That’s what’s at stake. I don’t think this helps Manhasset or your pocket. I would understand a NO vote if our schools weren’t performing well, but Manhasset ranks in the top 100 in the country. Proper school funding is the cornerstone of those results.

If your NO vote is a statement vote against pensions and benefits please understand the local school board has NO CONTROL of that. Your anger needs to be aimed at Albany.

The New York State imposition of a 60% supermajority to pass a school budget over the cap is not democratic. It is not democracy at work. One person, one vote no longer applies. In any other normal vote, majority rules and the budget would have passed. No longer.

As a community, we failed this past Tuesday with a big red “F.” Be careful for what you wish Manhasset residents, for you may surely get it.

Dino Moshova