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I have lived here my whole life, and I have rarely seen this town so vehemently divided over an issue. The budget vote brought out some deep animosity in people on both sides of the debate. It seems to me that in the end, because so little ground could be given, nothing was gained.

I voted yes, but when I saw a decrease of just over one million I knew it wouldn't pass. Such a decrease would anger too many no voters, appearing to be an insincere attempt. And from what I heard in the grocery store, the post office, and elsewhere, that was in fact the case. So the question those who supported the budget (myself included) have to ask themselves is: Was every item in that budget critical? If a few more items were dropped, would some of the budget at least have been preserved?

I have spoken to my neighbors and friends on the issue, and it seems that depending on the interests of the child, the parent supports either academics or sports. Some support JV teams, others AP classes. Still others couldn't live without a bus or driver's education. The list goes on. But no one supports larger class sizes or buildings in disrepair. So the yes voters have to ask themselves: could my pet line item have been dropped if it would have gotten other items approved? Through family I know that both Rye, NY and Pleasantville, NY do not provide buses to and from school. There are duel income families in these towns, and they work it out with neighbors. For most of the sports our school offers, PYA and PAL provide club teams in the elementary school years, JV is not usually a child's introduction to a sport. Club teams could go beyond sixth grade, keeping kids off the street. I'm sure there are towns that don't provide driver's education either, and people have to pay for it themselves.

This does not, however, mean that those who vote no don't have to review their own motives as well. Could you vote yes for a budget that would increase your taxes if it repaired a roof or allowed more teachers, or do you vote no to keep your taxes down no matter what? One comment I heard a number of times was "why wasn't roof repair in the bond?" If you vote no consistently, you need to realize that reaching for an unrealistic $30 million bond cost us state funding (we missed a deadline). Roof repair was then removed from the revised bond proposal in order to reduce the cost, and when you factor these two items in the $68 million we ended up with wasn't that far off from the initial $87 million proposed. And now we have to address the roof issue again. Anyone who doesn't think there is a roof problem should go to Manorhaven School after a rain. Don't go the day of the rain though, because it takes about 24 hours for the water to trickle through the ceiling and become the color of tea before it leaks onto the brand new gym floor and into the new classrooms. And, of course, the leaks that were there before construction continue to be a problem. Does it make sense to continue to vote no and allow these problems to worsen, costing us more? As for the argument that not passing a school budget isn't going to affect home values, do you really think that transplants from Manhattan aren't looking at the school district when they consider where to settle down? There are other good commutes to New York besides Port Washington, and they have great schools too. And no, a decrease in your property value isn't going to decrease your taxes. Nassau County is in too much financial trouble to reassess everyone again and lose income.

The one argument that has to be shot down by anyone who hears it, both for and against, is the following: If they can't afford to live here anymore, it is time for them to move. As a longtime resident, I ask those wealthy newcomers with this attitude, do us a favor, and you move. You can afford it. Port has always been culturally and economically diverse. Many of our seniors worked hard their whole lives to stay in a town we all love. They made this town what it is. They aren't just being squeezed by taxes; energy costs and medical costs that are higher than anticipated also take a toll. There is a straw that does eventually break the camel's back, even if you break the tax increase down to dollars a day. Seniors bring wisdom, history, and experience to this town that is as important as the futures of our children. The needs of both must be addressed.

Susan Carras


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