Residents of the Mineola School District will be voting on a school budget for the 2006-2007 school year on Tuesday, May 16. Taxes are the subject that seems to be on everyone's mind as many feel school districts on Long Island have reached crucial times.
The Mineola School District will be asking residents to approve a budget, totaling $71,748,519 in expenditures, an increase of 6.97 percent from last year's budget. Of that $71,748,519, the amount that would come from property taxes is $65,316,859, an increase of 5.67 over the previous year's budget.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Larry Licopoli and board of education members feel they have built a budget that preserves the district programs at the most cost effective price. Residents will, however, see a tax increase. If the budget were to pass, the average home in the Mineola School District with a full value assessment of $460,000 would see a $325 increase with the budget passing. Even if the budget was to fail and the board of education was to adopt a contingency budget, the increase would be $241.
Of course, the tax increase a resident will pay will depend on how much their assessment changes. The assessment changes have nothing to do with the school district but can change the amount of school taxes a homeowner pays. Take Albertson resident Eric Treibman, for example.
Last year, after the proposed 2005-2006 budget failed, the board of education adopted a contingency budget. The school tax increase for a home in the school district with a full value of $390,200 was $306. Yet, Treibman saw his school tax increase balloon to $1,038.31. That's because the assessment of his home increased by $140,000.
Another Albertson resident, Nick O'Connor, said he is paying close to $7,000 in school taxes and urged the board to consider hiring an outside organization to negotiate the next contracts with the unions.
Dr. Licopoli acknowledged that there are issues that have to be addressed in terms of the implementation of contracts in the future. However, the school superintendent believes the district has diligently searched for ways to cut spending in recent years.
Perhaps district resident and parent Chris Napolitano of Williston Park put next Tuesday's budget vote in perspective the best. Napolitano pointed out that 92 percent of the budget is contractual, which means whether the budget passes or not, the district still must meet its contractual obligations such as salaries and benefits. The remaining 8 percent of the budget are what homeowners will be voting on and that's the portion of the budget that includes programs for the students. Therefore, voting against the budget is only going to hurt the students.
If the budget fails and the board adopts a contingency budget, the board will be forced to cut an additional $1,090,000. Among the programs that figure to be cut if the board goes on a contingency includes pre-kindergarten, Project Adventure, late bus runs, seventh grade sports, K-12 intramurals and 10 additional marching band performances.
Still, the fact remains that the school budget is the only budget that residents have the opportunity to vote on and for some, a "No" vote represents a statement that some residents are being taxed out of their homes. Many residents find themselves house rich, but income poor, meaning the high value of their homes is only a benefit if the house is sold. It is otherwise a burden when it comes to the issue of property taxes.
The board feels it is putting a responsible budget in front of taxpayers that ensures a quality education for the district's students. Returning to the budget are items that were cut last year such as seventh grade sports and K-12 intramurals. New items added to the budget include a new math program series, enhanced building security at all the school systems, playground resurfacing at the Jackson Avenue School and Meadow Drive School and selected brick work at the Cross and Hampton Street schools.
Voting will take place on Tuesday, May 16 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at your designated elementary school.