Since the voting on school budgets will be held in about six weeks, taxpayers should now request information from their school districts on the times that consume the largest portion of their property taxes - teacher and administrator salaries and benefits. School officials keep salary data well hidden from taxpayers, but state law requires that it be made available to residents upon request. Teacher salaries and benefits come out of your pocketbook so be aware of what you are paying for.

The following data is available for Long Island public schools and is the type of information you should request from your school district:

The starting pay for teachers with a master's degree is about $57,000 and the top pay is over $145,000 for a 10-month school year. Despite the deepening recession, teachers unions have negotiated annual salary raises of 6 to 8 percent or more when longevity, education credit and step increases are included.

While the average Long Island teacher salary is $78,000, most teachers are paid extra for tasks that private sector employees would ordinarily be expected to perform without additional pay. One high school teacher with a base salary of $112,000 receives extra pay for cafeteria supervision and club activities, bringing his paycheck to $122,300 a year. A teacher who coaches two sports is paid $10,780 in addition to his base salary. With extra pay, more than 40 percent of teachers on Long Island have salaries of over $100,000 a year.

New York is very generous with teacher pensions. Teachers do not pay any New York State income tax whatsoever on their pensions. The average teacher retiring last year with 35 years on the job received an annual pension of $71,800. School superintendents, some of whom earn $250,000, which is more than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, get an average pension of about $145,000 and lifetime health benefits.

Sixty-five percent of the property taxes we pay on Long Island go to pay school costs and most of this is for teacher salaries and benefits. Taxpayers have suggested that all teacher contracts be renegotiated immediately.

George Rand

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