Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00
I’m writing in response to remarks made by North Shore School Board President Carolyn Mazzu Genovesi in a Feb. 15 article. Ms. Genovesi is requesting legislative action to address a roughly $7 million budget shortfall. However she failed to mention that several of my legislative colleagues and I have worked closely with her and other board members over the past year to achieve a solution to this problem.
We have met with Ms. Genovesi and other members of the school board at the offices of state Senator Marcellino, which was attended by Senator Martins and Assemblyman Lavine, as well as the office of the Nassau County Assessor. While we explained to all concerned on numerous occasions that the state can neither compel a privately-owned and-operated company such as National Grid (the owner of the facility) to halt its ramping down of the Glenwood Landing plant nor provide an extra $7 million to make up the difference, there are steps we can take.
While we cannot force businesses to stay, we can mitigate the impact of their leaving and ensure our schools and municipalities don’t suffer. In that vein, I am co-sponsoring a bill (A.1866) allowing for school districts and counties to receive PILOT payments over a ten-year period and spread out the impact of a loss of tax revenue from an exiting business, thus avoiding an immediate budget deficit.
My Long Island Assembly Republican colleagues and I are also leading a push for Governor Cuomo to increase Long Island’s share of school aid this coming year. There is a petition for residents to sign at bit.ly/LISchools, asking the governor to provide our schools with their fair share.
While 75 percent of the North Shore School District’s budget is fixed costs, the bulk of those costs come from contracts and services the Board of Education negotiates themselves, which include employee salary and benefits, step increases and other employee-related perks. That is why we also encouraged Ms. Genovesi to try and figure out where cost-saving measures could be enacted. For instance, having both a paid lobbyist and paid public relations person on staff may not be the most judicious use of taxpayer resources, especially when granted unfettered access to their elected officials. School funding needs to go towards ensuring our children receive the quality education they need and deserve to succeed in the global economy of today and tomorrow, not to a special-interest lobbyist or PR person.
The fact of the matter is that, despite Ms. Genovesi’s statements, we have taken steps to ensure the North Shore School District and others facing similar situations don’t absorb a multi-million dollar hit to their budget. Whether she chooses to accept or follow the advice we’ve provided and legislation we’ve proposed is up to her.
Michael A. Montesano
Member of Assembly