It's that time again when our board of education is preparing next year's school budget (60 percent of real estate taxes are school taxes). I enjoy school board meetings and would encourage everyone who pays taxes to attend and listen to the options our elected trustees are mulling over. At the Feb. 26 meeting, the middle school principal stated a fifth principal for her school was required. (The high school already has five principals; the middle school "only" has four.) The elementary school principals requested several new "staff development positions," sort of teachers that will teach the teachers. The board indicated they were very impressed with the overall presentation given by our educational leaders.

Several in the audience spoke. One recent former board member expressed concern that the draft budget allocated $1.2 million for teacher absenteeism, up from his recollection of $400,000 in his term. He wondered why there is so much absenteeism for teachers whose work year is only 184 days? He asked the board to do something about it, as it not only hurts taxpayers but kids as well. Another asked the board to justify why we staff our schools with so many extra teachers and other support staff compared with the average for Nassau County? He stated savings of over $6 million per year could be achieved if we aligned our staffing with the average of other school districts (1/3 of Port teachers earn in excess of $100,000 per year).

Once again, our board spoke of "bare bone budgets" and a "tight situation" while considering hiring a tenth principal to manage our MS/HS. I've lived in Port Washington since 1965 and attended the Port Schools myself. As our taxes skyrocket and many are forced to leave Port Washington because of the unfair burden of school taxes, I've often wondered when did Port Washington become such an "elite" town? All these tax increases haven't made the town all that much better. We have far more traffic and more garbage on the streets. If anything, it's made Port less diverse, and generally speaking, only the wealthy can buy a home in our town now. Who else would consider these taxes reasonable?

It is incumbent upon all our citizens to vote in the May 20 school budget election. With difficult economic times forecast and declining home values, why can't our BOE keep the tax increase to inflation? Can't we have a year that gives the homeowner a break? Let your voice be heard. Join our mailing list at www.pwea.net or send a post card to PO Box 203 in Port.

Peter Wezenaar

Port Washington Educational Assembly

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