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Letter: Complications from Tax Cap

Unfortunately, in the business of schools, the news is not all happy.

Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his State of the State address and his Executive Budget and Reform Plan. We commend Governor Cuomo’s willingness to take on what has always been perceived as sacred cows, such as pension reform, tenure issues, teacher and principal evaluations, as well as the ever-increasing high taxes across the state; but the increasing costs to districts to implement these proposals, without mandate relief, just further burdens school districts with new additional costs.

The Tax Cap, which in actuality is not a cap on taxes but rather is a cap on the tax levy, does not cap an individual’s school tax bill. The law applies solely to the school tax levy. Increases in individual tax bills are set by formulas created by the County and this will continue to be true. This is significantly different than what taxpayers have been led to believe.

The East Williston Board of Education supports property tax relief. New York has some of the highest property taxes in the country, but the legislature has yet to provide schools with meaningful solutions to address the biggest cost drivers in our budgets. So although the new “Tax Cap” now restricts the amount of revenue that can be raised through taxes, without relief, the expenses that drive school budgets will continue to significantly increase.

In regard to the recent news on principal and teacher evaluations, the board of education wants you to know that contrary to the Governor’s statement that districts in New York have not agreed to the new evaluation guidelines, the EWSD has indeed reached just such an agreement. Our district was one of the first districts in the state to complete negotiations with its unions and has put an agreement in place. Districts that have not complied with the new evaluation guidelines could lose part of their state aid in January 2013. Thanks to the negotiations and subsequent agreement reached between the board, superintendent and the unions, our district will not lose this state aid.

Taken in total, the governor has addressed several longstanding issues pressing public education; yet, you cannot cap what you cannot control. The governor has included more cost shifts to school districts that, if enacted by the legislature, would amount to new additional unfunded mandates. These cost shifts include diverting cost increases for preschool special education from counties to school districts. These increases, together with Nassau County’s efforts to shift the burden of its responsibilities to school districts by way of the recently created Sewer Tax and the recently enacted ‘property tax challenge refunding process’ could increase the EWSD Budget by several hundred thousand dollars, adding costs at a time when a Tax Cap is in place. These costs will take away funds that should be used for children.

One thing is certain - the new tax cap legislation is likely to complicate the struggle to find meaningful tax relief and to build and sustain world-class schools. Your board of education will continue to lobby our elected officials, meeting regularly with Senator Martins, Assemblywoman Schimel, Commissioner of Education Dr. John King, and the New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

We urge you to attend our budget workshops and to continue to submit your input to your board of education.

The East Williston
Board of Education
Mark Kamberg, President
Robert Freier, Vice President
Robert V. Fallarino, Esq., Trustee
David Keefe, Trustee
Barbara Slone, Trustee