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Letter: Soaring Achievement and School Finances

On June 8, 2009, the NY State Comptroller’s Office released that contributions to retirement systems would dramatically increase due to poor market performance. On Sept. 3, 2009 the NY State School Boards Association warned that school districts should expect, due to investment losses, substantial budget increases for the Teachers Retirement System. At the school board meetings held last year on Nov. 3 and 11, 2010 the PW schools superintendent yet cited unforeseen budget increases totaling $8-10 million dollars.

Last year’s budget won approval on the rhetoric that the tax increase would be the same regardless of a yes or no vote; giving the impression that voting was of little consequence. It was not stressed that this would be done by buying down the tax increase with reserves that the next year, although vitally needed, would be absent and be a cause to insufficiency.

Subsequently, five-year contracts into known deficiencies were approved. The school board then continued with foreknowledge of an impending layoff of between 30-40 teachers, due to the insufficiency, to approve increases to nonaligned personnel. Included were the top administrators with gross salaries in excess of $175,000. One might have expected the top administrators, at this difficult time, to have set the example, and volunteered to forgo raises.

Board members presently are in consideration of a $5 million bond for needed repairs that have languished for years. Are trustees aware of the fiscal constraints existing at the county, state, and national level? Or realized that a shortage of work has made trade offs between job security and raises acceptable. Did anyone mention that school services to children are in decline, while school salaries are soaring over declining general income?

With the spike in pension costs, unfunded mandates, generous contracts, over staffing, inefficient practices, and a state tax cap legislated in relief of taxes, the district absent in performance of the basic requirements to plan, anticipate, manage, and budget now finds that it has insufficient funds to meet future obligations. Responsibility must first go to the trustees and then to their schools’ superintendent.

School trustees elected and influenced by a narrow constituency are predisposed to agree with their constituency. They profess to have no educational expertise. Trustees captive to an audience of special interests are further numbed into identifying with their captors.

The demands of the teacher’s union are unyielding. Trustees faced with the opposition of parents, and, similarly, the superintendent, rather than grapple with the unions have instead preferred the path of least resistance. Which is, to rely upon the historic generosity of the residents of Port Washington. It is the soaring achievement of school administration that residents have for so long permitted this incompetent wasteful structure to continues to tap their pockets with reach increasing into the bottoms.

James Ansel