Port Washington residents should understand fully how the $87 million bond proposal will impact school taxes. The bond proposal alone will increase the school taxes by 9 - 10 percent, and this increase will be locked in for over 20 years. This 9 - 10 percent increase is in addition to the ordinary increase of 4 - 5 percent in our school budget and does not include the unidentified staff increases that will occur pursuant to this bond proposal. If this bond proposal is approved on May 16 along with our school budget, the taxpayers in Port will see a total increase in school taxes ranging from 13 to 15 percent. And this increase, locked in for over 20 years, does not include the associated staff increases that will occur the following year.
This year, if the bond proposal is approved, the school tax increase alone will be seven times the amount of the proposed county general tax increase, which played so large a role in the historic upheaval in the county legislature.
I also attended the Jan. 4 school board meeting, and when I made this point of comparison, I was rudely interrupted several times by a woman in the audience. Beyond this specific act of rudeness was the persistent rudeness shown by several others toward school board members Sussman and Zimmerman. Now I couldn't disagree more with the five member majority, but at no time was I, nor any other person who disagreed with them, rude to them. Furthermore, to see several letter writers and attendees at that meeting brazenly suggest that Sussman and Zimmerman should resign simply because they could not agree with this extravagant decision of the majority is wholly inconsistent with proper behavior in a free society. Since when is a school board member, or any elected official, not entitled to stand fast for his conviction that a particular proposal adopted by the majority is extravagant and out of line with the best interests of most Port residents.
The alternative proposal of Sussman and Zimmerman, besides costing only one-third as much, seems to me to present educational advantages as well in keeping Weber as a middle school and Sousa as an elementary school. To spend $30 million to essentially switch these two schools is, in my view, lacking in common sense.
We have in Port an incredible number of good families, and a sufficient number of dedicated teachers who will assure educational success for their children. And, we have unfortunately some failures, partly because of poor teachers and partly because of unsupportive families. There is ample research evidence available, beginning with the authoritative Coleman Report, and followed by numerous other studies, to suggest that spending $87 million instead of $30 million will have no appreciable effect on the quality of education in Port for the vast majority of students. But this bond proposal will adversely affect many taxpayers for many years and, in some cases, will economically force some young mothers out to the work force to pay ever increasing school taxes. Both justice and common sense argue strongly for the Sussman/Zimmerman plan and a rejection of this $87 million bond proposal in May.
Frank J. Russo, Jr.