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Op-Ed: Lindenhurst Schools Need the 2% Tax Cap

Denis Garbo, Lindenhurst resident and civic leader, discusses why the school district needs to stay within the New York state tax cap, and how the district could save money by re-evaluating its health care costs for educators.

The two-percent is necessary because many local school boards can't or won't control costs themselves.

Consider these facts:

  • In the last 10 years inflation has averaged less than 2.5 percent.
  • The number of students enrolled in Lindenhurst School District has decreased by more than 1,000, and yet our residents have seen their school taxes double!

Does anyone see something wrong with this picture? The cost to educate each Lindenhurst student now exceeds $20,000 per year - more than the tuition of many private schools!

The Lindenhurst Board of Education and administrators would have us believe that their due to contractual rising costs of salaries, pensions and , but who agreed to those contracts in the first place?

And if the , why can't the school board? After all the Village has the same issues, albeit on a smaller scale, of employee contracts, pensions and health-insurance costs.

Some school districts do a better job than others of controlling their costs by seeking competing vendors for products and services and/or alternate funding vehicles.

Here's just one example: In the Smithtown school district the cost of health insurance is only about 10 percent of its total budget, while in Lindenhurst, it's closer to 13 percent.

That three percent difference represents more than $4 million annually in potential savings for Lindenhurst residents, and it could actually lower their tax bill by five percent!

Incredibly, the $18 million health insurance bill has not been put out for competitive bid for many years! Thankfully, after considerable urging from taxpayers, the board and administration have agreed to, at least, explore alternative health plans.

Of course, any change will require the acceptance of the various collective bargaining units. If this board is serious about cutting costs and staying within the two-percent cap, then it can meet any resistance to change, from the unions, by offering the following alternative to their leadership:

"Accept the new health plan or be prepared to lose the number of personnel positions whose salary and benefit costs will equal the unrealized savings of the proposed plan."

No one wants this outcome, but if union leadership is willing to sacrifice the jobs of its members, then the terminated employees can only blame themselves for electing those leaders in the first place.

Assuming this exercise of competitively bidding our health insurance program produces real cost savings, it begs the question: "Where else in the budget might there be room for significant improvement?"

The bottom line? If local school boards won't do the right thing and control costs, then New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is right to step in and do it for  them.

But by the same token, in order for the two-percent cap to work, our legislators and governor must immediately:

  1. Modify, or rescind, those laws that limit the ability of municipalities and school districts to perform meaningful collective bargaining with unions.
  2. Change the unfunded mandates currently imposed by the state on all municipalities and school districts.

 

Denis Garbo is a long-time Lindenhurst civic association leader and resident.

 

Editor's Note: Share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter, or e-mail barbara.loehr@patch.com with your own opinion piece about the .

Outside looking in February 09, 2012 at 08:05 PM
This must be an old op-ed. I believe the Village voted to override the tax cap if necessary. And I thought we have already decided that the numbers published in Newsday for Smithtown were totally incorrect?
Artie Clemens February 09, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Maybe if the Lindenhurst school district got rid of the DEAD WOOD (all the teacher aids and other BS)in the system maybe our taxes would not be soooo high. Why does a teacher need assistance in the class rooms and all the DEAD WOOD in the offices????????????????????????????????????????????????
John Lisi February 09, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Regrettably you have mixed up many facts and interchanged them erroneously. Lindy Village Budget: The Village recently voted to override the 2% cap because IF they had to exceed the cap, they had to pass this vote before a certain date. The Village budget was finalized and it met the Tax Cap Law without the need to override it. The Village however taxes us for Village Services and that DOES NOT include the school district. When the school district finalizes its budget and the budget passes public vote, the property tax payers burden is given to the Town of Babylon. They calculate the tax on each property and then turn over the collected monies to the District. It was recently clarified that the Smithtown Health Insurance figure, indicated earlier this year in Newsday, was understated. That however has no bearing on what Mr. Garbo has stated in his Op-Ed piece. His issues are presented with current factual information. Please re- read it carefully. Summary: It is most important that all residents become correctly informed of all facts in Village and School District matters before they make erroneous public statements. There are many school board meetings you can attend to become well informed and your local civics provide the correct information on all local matters. I urge all to attend both venues and become well informed citizens. Please do not publish, or spread, incorrect information--this does a disservice to the community at large.
Ali February 09, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Wow...just wow. Have you ever handled a class of 25 1st graders by yourself? I'm a special education aide at a pre-school and the work they do is ENORMOUS. And I resent this comment, not only as a teacher's aide (yes-the word is spelled aide, with an "e" at the end) but as a parent of a special needs child in the district who has an aide. Without her aide, she wouldn't be anywhere near as successful as she is. And yes, she's a district award recipient amongst her other achievements. You've never done the work of a teacher's aide, obviously. They make pennies per hour and it's one of the toughest jobs out there. Try walking a mile in the shoes of someone you consider "dead wood" and see how you fare.
Tyler Hughes February 10, 2012 at 02:59 AM
I'm surprised at the things that have been suggested...cutting the teacher's aides, increasing class sizes, etc. These things will all have deleterious affects on the quality of the school districts. You know what has nothing to do with the quality of education? BUSSING! Look at Bayport-Blue Point : no buses, but a better school system than Lindenhurst! The current limit being so high, bussing isn't really necessary. I'm still trying to figure out why there are so many busses at LHS! I moved to Lindy, from Massapequa. Massapequa is a much larger school system....0.75 mi from the school you get a bus, yet there were less buses at MHS than there are at LHS. ?????????
Jeannie Smith February 10, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Ali - I definitely agree! I was an aide at the MS and my son is in a special education class. It is a lot of work and they don't get paid nearly as much as everyone thinks and are very valuable to the school - they are NOT dead wood. They also don't get the respect or appreciation they deserve. Also, when they came out with ways they would save money on the budget (a few years ago), it was shown if they cut staff (administrator, teacher, administrative assistant, etc.), cutting aides would have saved the least amount of money (less than $60,000). They use aides for a reason.
John Lisi February 10, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Tyler: If I am not mistaken, you are a current student in our district. It is great to see that you have taken an interest in what is currently happening. You have made observations and are questioning suggested courses of action. Keep in mind that most of these issues have long and complicated backgrounds to them, which you probably do not know. i.e. Our busing limits. The current limits are the same as the they used to be many years ago. Some years ago, when the economy was better, we lowered the limits so as to provide more busing to students. As the economy worsened, we proposed a return ( to just the old limits), to save big money. The community became enraged and did not want change despite no suggestions from these same people on how to pay for everything. You are suggesting NO busing-the community would never accept that! Everything we provide to students has an associated cost and it is getting harder to find the funds every year. Space in this comment box is limited, so I conclude with thanking you for your interest and just suggest that you try to attend the public meetings & Civic group meetings to broaden your knowledge. Stay involved and enlist others too, BUT be sure to look at the entire situation from all perspectives.
Ali February 10, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Right on Jeannie! And last I looked, aides don't get health benefits, etc. Aides are vital to a lot of students. By the way, I'm a product of Bayport-Bluepoint schools. They are in NO way superior to Lindenhurst. In fact, I'd say just the opposite. The no bussing thing started when back when, when I was in Junior High. We had nothing there of merit. I'm thrilled with Lindenhurst as a district and everything they have done for my kids.
Tyler Hughes February 10, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I see....but maybe condense the buses? In Massapequa the maximum # of students per bus was 60 before the drivers would start complaining. I don't take a bus, but I can tell that most of the buses seem to be very uncrowded (less than 40)
Tyler Hughes February 10, 2012 at 08:45 PM
@Ali BBP may not have been superior "when back when" (I'm thinking you meant "way back when"), but it is now. Check the NY State Report Card. Of the graduating class of 2010, 68% of general-education students and 26% of disabled students made it into 4-year colleges. Those stats are only 44% and 7% for Lindy's 2010 Class. However, BBP had 0% plan unknown for GE and 1% for disabled. Meanwhile, Lindy had 28% and 44%. Those are ENORMOUS percentages of "Plan Unknown". Another thing: BBP definitely has something of merit: it's Science Olympiad A-Team placed 5th out of the 50 competing Teams from High Schools all over Suffolk County. They're going on to the State Finals. Lindenhurst High School's one team (BBP also had a secondary team that placed 41st) only placed 42nd. Lindenhurst should a) pay more attention to where students go after they graduate and b) fund it's clubs more. Most of the funding for our team came from the advisor's pocket. We were so busy fundraising that we had little time to prepare for the competition.
Ali February 10, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Yes, sorry-I meant to type "way back"! :) The stats look good on paper but BBP High School has a total number of students equaling 725. Lindenhurst High School has well over 2,000 students. That's a huge difference. The statistics are skewed based on the mere fact that Lindenhurst has 3 times the amount of students as BBP. Plus, (I know this since my father's house just sold in Bayport) the taxes there are almost double for most households as compared to Lindenhurst (i.e., my father's house, the tax is almost $16K). So clubs SHOULD be funded better. When I was a student there, we were on austerity from the time I entered 6th grade to past when I graduated. We had no clubs or extracurriculars. I'm happy to see some things have changed there.
Tyler Hughes February 10, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Ugh that must've sucked! I feel sorry for you. However, I doubt size affects the quality of a school as long as class sizes aren't too big. Wyandanch and Roosevelt are very small high schools but are still very bad. HHH E
Lindy Mom February 13, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Again everything you all speak about is to take from the KIDS...... Its about time the unions started paying there share of medical etc. Now as for Aides.They work hard for hardly anything, but lets face it unless there is a child with a need in a class, there is no reason for there to be an aide to cut out shapes for the teacher. (I know what I"m talking about). I had 36 kids in my class in elementary school and one teacher. Back then kids weren't classified nor did they have IEP's. The teacher acutally taught lessons not how to take the ELA, and she was able to still handle the difficult child, stop looking to take extracurricular away from these kids. Because the next thing your going to complain about is the amount of kids out on the street after school causing trouble. There are enough of them. Now lets move onto busing. I am a working parent with children in different schools. I do not have time nor will I allow my children to work the distance to their respective schools. So should I use my vacation time, sick time or be docked in order to play taxi in the morning, and leave my job which is an hour from home to get home at different dismissal times to pick them up. The the "KID" who put his 2 cents in the mix, have you seen the problems around the schoos at dismissal with traffic. Add the 750 bus students parents to that mix. Your asking for trouble. Cut the fat else where not from the kids. Start playing a different tune because this one is so played out already
Karen Stephan February 19, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Unless the teachers contribute more for their medical and their retirement and only get the current rate of return on their investments and not a guarrenteed 8% while the rest of society gets 1%, our schools will be no more. It must be great to get a 3 -5% increase in pay every year even when they are not in contract. Who else out there get these guaranteed benefits. NO ONE EXCEPT TEACHERS. First in last out - yet another benefit. What do teachers have to give in return? NOTHING! They are still using the same lesson plans that they developed the first day they were hired. I would love to know what mandated educational classes they are taking to insure our4 yr. olds are not smarter than their educators. We installed smart boards except the only ones who know how to use them are the students. HOW SAD IS THAT. WE NEED TO EVALUATE ALL THE TEACHERS AND KEEP ONLY THOSE THAT HAVE CONTINUE EDU. CREDITS AND THOSE THAT PASS OUR REQUIREMENTS.
Karen Stephan February 19, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Why not get rid of 9 th period - the teachers are only required to work 5 out of 9 periods and then have they have the nerve to get paid an additional salary for: DETENTION.
Karen Stephan February 19, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Administrators, and teachers should be paid via income tax and/or sales tax. This way our property tax will truly be used for the children and the upkeep of our schools.
Karen Stephan February 19, 2012 at 01:31 AM
We should all have had our fill of this bargaining unit, because the one thing they don't do is bargain. THEY WANT AND WANT AND WANT. THEY GIVE NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING
Ali February 19, 2012 at 01:45 AM
While I agree with your opinion on bussing (my daughter takes the bus)-you have aides confused with a teacher's assistant. Aides are ONLY provided when there is a child in the class with special needs and they must shadow that child the entire time. Aides (to my original point to the guy who said they were BS) DO NOT get benefits, paid time off, etc. So cutting aides would be fruitless. Personally, I think administrator salaries need to be carefully looked at as an option to scale down.
Janeen April 04, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Teacher aides represent a very small amount of payroll (and do not include health benefits most of the time), yet they service a very large amount of children who need them. Teacher aides are certainly not the issue here. Let's attend meetings and put forth commentary that will really help the community.

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