Thursday, 13 June 2013 00:00
The Manhasset School Board heard the community after the failure of passing the budget on May 21. After a series of open board meetings, the district presented a revised budget for adoption on June 3 in an open meeting at the high school. After a two-hour discussion and Q & A, the board voted on the revised budget, and it was unanimously adopted. This reduced budget reflects the cuts needed (approximately $3.1 million) to reduce the tax levy increase to a level the district feels most community members will support, 1.97 percent. (An overview of the major cuts are on page 10.)
If the vote fails, the District will be on austerity, and that means, among other things, no sports, no clubs, no before or after school activities, and larger class sizes at the elementary level. Sports at the schools cannot be privately funded unless that funding is provided for all sports teams, not just some of them.
The calculation for Manhasset’s 2013-14 “allowable tax levy cap” was a mere $118,923 or a 0.15 percent year-to-year increase; most districts had higher allowable levy increases so they didn’t have to pierce the cap. Also, other Districts used fund balance/reserves to keep taxes down. Manhasset used their available funds each year for the past four years to provide relief to the community from higher increases. These were not unlimited funds. The impact from that, and a significant loss of funds from State Aid, worked against the district.
It is important to explain that even with these cuts and a revised tax levy of 1.97 percent, the district still needs to pierce the cap with a supermajority vote of 60 percent or better (approval). To further illustrate the difficulty faced by this district in the “allowable tax cap levy” environment, understand that the budget-to-budget expenses actually went down by nearly $900,000. This convoluted, and complex cap calculation switched the focus from the traditional budget expense dollars, to tax levy revenue dollars (two years ago).
At the open Board meetings on May 30, June 1, and June 3, many speakers urged a “get out the vote” drive to achieve a 60 percent or greater approval on June 18. This vote is the most pivotal to date. Achieving a supermajority must happen to save the district from being forced to make further cuts across the board, to the tune of $1.5 million. Operating under the constraints of a contingency budget (a.k.a., austerity) will send out a resounding negative message about Manhasset and the value it places on public school education. It should be noted that a 1.97 percent levy (tax) increase translates to approximately $265/year for a home with an assessed value of $1,035,000 million.
The following are two claims that we’ve heard from a number of community members:
Claim: “My taxes are too high.” Agreed! Send your grievances to Albany. CACLA will be spearheading a drive to tell our elected officials that we want a stop to unfunded mandates and a plan for real pension reform.
Claim: “Other Districts kept within the cap.” The allowable tax levy increase formula is complex and district specific. Remember, Manhasset’s “allowable tax levy” increase is only 0.15%. If you saw the May 22 Newsday article (page A3), it listed all of the Long Island districts and their levy increases. The overwhelming majority exceeded “2 percent”; only seven districts went after piercing the cap. The reason most schools didn’t have to ask for a supermajority vote is their allowable tax cap levies were higher than 2 percent.
Paul A. Baumgarten, Chairperson
Marianne Tomei, Secretary