Starting the Lindenhurst Board of Education will again begin the process of developing the district’s budget for the school year.
As stated before and again recently, this will be an arduous and painful process, wherein everything will be on the table for review and to face cuts: kindergarten, clubs, sports and programming, to name just a few.
Under the new New York state two-percent , our district has to find approximately $3.6 million in savings to comply with the tax law. The reality is that there aren’t enough clubs, programing and sports to cut, to make up the required $3.6 million unless Armageddon prevails.
The budget process, along with the public , is good in that it provides transparency and a venue for community involvement. Regrettably, there is never strong participation by the community, and yet these are the property taxpayers and parents of the students in the district.
Also missing, most of the time, are the educators who collectively comprise some 80 percent of the district’s budget, (with salaries and benefits) and whose union representatives have not seen the need, to date, to make meaningful compromises to help with the budget.
There is, however, one large budget line item, that we may be able to make changes on and possibly yield big savings - that is the cost of for our educators.
Lindenhurst currently pays approximately $18 million for its Empire Health Plan. Based on the number of people covered by it (over 650), we are paying far more, in proportion, than other school districts on Long Island.
One methodology to reduce this cost is to go out and solicit proposals from competitive insurance companies for an equal to/or better than policy at a lower cost.
I cite the equal to/or better than issue because there is a clause in the current, previously board-approved, teachers’ contract that states any changes to the contract must be approved by them and that the changes must be equal to/or better than current situations.
Wow! This needs to be done immediately to see if we can accomplish the desired savings, since we have not tested our premium in years.
The other insurance possibility is to study district self-insurance which appears risky on the surface, but is successfully accomplished by many other districts. Several community insurance specialists have already offered advice to administration on the process to accomplish this. This, too, needs to be done concurrent with the bidding attempt.
Not being successful with either of these two, previously mentioned processes, it leaves the district with but a few options, and these options will have to be made to a community that has already expressed that they do not want any more large tax increases, and they do not want more things taken away from the students.
1. Deep, deep cuts to programming and extracurricular activities and clubs.
2. As always done in the private business sector, conduct a massive staff layoff.
3. Attempt to convince the community, using the threat of the deep cuts to student programming and activities, to allow a budget increase in excess of the state mandated two-percent tax cap by approving that larger proposed budget, by a supermajority of at least 60 percent of the voters.
Previous, informal surveys of public opinion and previous voting results, in Lindenhurst, have shown that the support for this last option does not exist.
Additionally, the risk in trying this is that two failed budget votes will result in a sort of penalty phase in which the district would have to then find additional savings money (approximately another $3 million to $3.5 million for total of $7 million), instead of the original $3.6 million.
Do you find all of this somewhat shocking? Regrettably it is true, and these conditions will prevail for at least several more years.
Please make it your business to come to the budget meetings to listen to and express your opinions on the issues. Every opinion counts whether you are actively employed, a homemaker or a retiree.
is the president of the Daniel Street Civic Association.
Editor's Note: Here's what residents and readers of Lindenhurst Patch had to say about Lisi's ideas: