Friday, 13 May 2011 00:00This year, four candidates are running for seats on the Massapequa School Board. Two of them are incumbents seeking re-election and two are challengers. During a recent Candidates Night, they spoke and responded to questions and, as might be expected, there was very little agreement.
The two incumbents feel their re-election is warranted, because this school district is generally agreed to provide a very good education to more than 8,000 of our children. It does this at a cost which is among the lowest in Nassau County, presently about $22,000 per student. Finally, the tax increase they propose for the coming year is only 1.64 percent, well below the 2 percent tax cap that Governor Andrew Cuomo hopes to enact into law.
For the challengers, this district’s budget increases are the central issue. This school board, they said, recently granted increases to its senior staff. Certain figures were quoted: 50 administrators were paid from $138,597 up to $168,860, three assistant superintendents paid from $220,184 to $258,246, and the superintendent’s salary is $341,419.
They also mentioned increases granted for the district’s more than 600 teachers. Base pay, they added, of teachers in their early 40s can be as high as $119,540, and those in their early 50s may earn as much as $124,242.
Incumbent board members argue that the level of teachers’ salaries approved by this board is not the highest in Nassau County nor is it the lowest. It is simply in the middle range and they feel we must be competitive. Moreover, the complaint about the number of administrators and their salaries is not warranted in their view. Administrative costs as a percentage of the total budget are reasonable they added, and the district has been commended for this in independent studies.
As to the proposed tax levy being below the expected 2 percent tax cap, the challengers point out that the small increase is only achieved through clever accounting that masks the fact that large increases in spending are continuing. The district’s budget this year takes $2.5 million out of reserves and $3.5 million more is proposed to be taken out in next year’s budget.
Based on these issues, one or the other of these candidate teams will be elected. Although this school district has approximately 44,000 eligible voters, in most years, only 5,000 or 6,000 actually go to the polls. People in the Middle East and Africa are fighting and dying in their quest for democracy, but here at home, it doesn’t seem to be valued that much. Those who vote will do so on May 17.
James E. Stubenrauch