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Opinion

On May 15 we'll be voting on our next school budget. I'm hoping our school board proposes a minimal increase. Here are some facts of possible interest to you. Last month there were a little over 100 homes on the market here in Port, with a median (or middle) asking price of $799,000. Taxes on this median home were $11,300. Newsday just ran a story on property taxes in Port showing 58 percent of our tax bill was school taxes, a point also mentioned by outgoing Garbage Commissioner Pat van Deusen, who said this was forcing many people out of Port.

Here are some more facts: Port now has a little over 5,000 students, the same as in 1980-81. The school budget then was $23,900,000. Today it's $110,100,000. This increase of 360 percent equates to an increase of 6 percent per year. The NY metro inflation index increased 150 percent over this same time period, or only 3.5 percent/yr. If our school budget had only increased at the same pace as inflation these past 26 years, our $110 million school budget would only be $60 million and our school taxes would be 50 percent lower.

Of course, school districts have all sorts of "explanations", with some basis in fact but also with gross exaggeration ---one of the most common being "state mandates." Yes, there are state mandates, and many are foolish, and exist only because of pressure applied by teacher and other unions. But far and away the bulk of every school budget is a function of school board decisions, e.g., what salaries to pay and how many employees.

If school budgets continue to increase as in the past, then our typical property tax bill of $11,300 in 12 years will be $22,600. And in 24 years average tax bills will exceed $45,000/yr! Happy New Year everyone.

(The address for the Port Washington Educational Assembly is PO Box 203, Port Washington, NY 11050)

Frank J. Russo, Jr.

President, Port Washington Educational Assembly


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