The Elmont Board of Education has scheduled a Finance Summit of Nassau County school board representatives on Saturday, March 12, at the district's Dutch Broadway School from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nearly 20 school boards have indicated their desire to see such a summit held.
The agenda will include discussion of the costs of educating a child on Long Island and the need for equitable education funding. The Elmont School Board's goal in initiating the Finance Summit is to develop a more unified voice for Nassau County school districts in their efforts to continue to provide quality education for children and remain fiscally responsible to their constituents.
The county-wide tax summit was called for by Elmont Board of Education President Aubrey Phillips. Its purpose is to review and explore alternative means of funding public education in light of the mounting concerns regarding school property taxes' effects on homeowners.
School tax bills are a major concern among Nassau County residents. Even when administrations and boards of education make conscious efforts to contain costs, residents are still hit hard in their pockets. Such was the case recently with the Elmont School District.
The district's proposed 2004-2005 budget called for a spending increase of $4,451,474 of the 2003-2004 budget, a 6.6 percent budget-to-budget increase. Residents easily passed the budget. However, this past fall, when tax bills reached Elmont homes, the average tax increase was 14.82 percent.
While the Elmont Board of Education and district attempted to be cost conscious in putting together a budget for the 2004-2005 school year, taxpayers were still hit hard. School districts are finding pressures that are leading to double-digit tax increases.
In Elmont, for example, of the 14.82 percent tax increase, district officials said only 8.27 percent is attributable to the budgets for the Elmont School District, a K-6 district, and the Sewanhaka Central High School District while 2.57 is due to the shift of tax responsibility from the business class to homeowners class of property owners, 1.62 percent in reductions made by the state to STAR subsidies and 0.68 percent represents the re-evaluation of county assessments. The additional 1.68 percent was due to payments on a bond that was passed by taxpayers to build a new Elmont Public Library.
According to a press release sent out by the Elmont School District in November, because of the county's recent landmark reassessment of homes and commercial properties and because of reassessment challenges filed by some businesses, the burden of taxes continues to shift to the homeowners (Class I) from commercial properties (Class IV), therefore raising the total tax share paid by homeowners to 73 percent with the remaining property classes paying 27 percent.
Also, districts have had to deal with rising health care costs and increases to the New York State pension fund. The Elmont School District's 2004-2005 budget reflected an $894,396 increase in state pension costs and a $714,932 in state health insurance costs.
At the November 16, 2004 meeting of the Elmont Board of Education, Phillips stated that the phenomenon of homeowner taxes rising at double the rate of school budget increases hurts public education in general. He also stated that the existing funding methods for public education are out of touch with the ability for the community to pay and particularly out of touch with the ability of fixed income home owners to pay.
He then asked for a resolution to convene a summit comprised of representatives of board of education from school districts in Nassau County, county, town and state elected officials to attend the summit.
The motion was approved unanimously by the board of education and the district began contacting other school districts to gauge interest.