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Opinion

Every year teachers are eligible for a salary increase of three components; the cost of living, a step or longevity increase and an additional boost for course work completed. Increases must also cover one of the most comprehensive benefit packages existing anywhere. In this manner the average increase accelerates over the cost of living. These increases, yet are not based on performance but rather on a system in need of reform.

From early September through near the end of June teachers receive 30 paid days off. From late June to early September, a typical year, they further receive an additional 52 paid days off. The school year was established based on an agrarian economy when all hands were needed for planting, harvesting and maintenance. The agrarian economy ended with the industrial revolution over a century ago. Regardless of union rationalizations the full pay summer over the 30 days of existing paid vacation and holidays is excess and no longer justified.

I ask, should anyone demand year after year of raises continued through economic downturns when others are lucky to have a job. I do not single out the PW teachers. The problem is endemic. Nevertheless when linked to the substantial salaries paid to teachers we are in a serious problem of escalation. Making matters worse, every year, the budget vote precedes the contract expiration thereby forcing a contingency amount into the budget to cover anticipated raises. The pattern has been to treat any surplus as found money and plow it back into education thereby escalating the budget base to build on year following year.

Every year we are subjected to the same scare tactics such as home values will decrease unless education is supported. Economic reality suggests the opposite. When taxes soar, and they are soaring, downward pressure is exerted on home prices. This year the big difference is that people have had enough.

Another scare tactic is that the children will be harmed when in fact they reside in one of the most supportive environs on earth. A real threat is that of not being able to afford our own police, fire and other services as business is driven out, the tax base is eroded and fixed income residents are replaced with higher maintenance residents.

This year school administration is back to the shell game. Line items in excess of $1.6 million are gone. This is being done to present the budget below the perceived unacceptable public threshold of $100 million. This reduction is being borrowed from the reserve, amounts that next year, common sense dictate regardless of legality, will have to be piggybacked onto the next year's budget. When added the total exceeds $100 million for a net increase in excess of 10 percent.

On Tuesday, May 18, all taxpayers will have a chance to set the record straight. At this point I wish to digress a moment to present my very own scare tactic. Unless the upward spiral is stopped we may all soon live in a ghost town. On Tuesday, I will make the effort to vote. I urge you, as well, to come out to fix the bottom line.

James Ansel


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