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Herricks Meeting Extends Past Midnight

At the very start of the extremely long Herricks Board meeting that extended past midnight, the board named Grant Seltzer Richman and Sheryl Bohan as its student representatives and Dana Curtin and Samuel Oh as alternatives.

The board also announced that they have had very productive meetings with the Herricks Teacher’s Association and those meetings are ongoing. Board president Christine Turner added, “Naturally, we can’t discuss those meetings as yet, but we are happy that they will continue.”

Internal Auditors Pappas & Company Report

One of the partners of Pappas, Rhonda Nesserole was on hand and reported that the Herricks District was one of the best to work with. She said everything was in order and that Assistant Superintendent for Business Helen Costigan and her staff were wonderful to work with and she gave Herricks very high marks. She added the department members all work very hard and that she was very impressed.

Martins/Kaiman Guests

However, most of the meeting centered around its two guest New York State Senator Jack Martins and North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman.

Board president Turner thanked them profusely for taking time out of their busy schedules. She added it was rare that board attendees get to meet them. She also commented that it was probably due to their appearance that the board meeting was so crowded, so much so that chairs had to be added to the boardroom.

Kaiman started it off by first introducing himself and stating, “Both Senator Martins and I live in and represent the state and the Town of North Hempstead which is a very large community. Everyone has his own needs and concerns, but a lot of issues seem to transcend, so between the local and state government we have some insight on some of the concerns you have and I know we are both here and willing to address any concerns you might have.”

President Turner then turned to Senator Martins and he said, “I think the supervisor said it very well and we are here to listen to your concerns.”

The first person in the audience asked Senator Martins about the 2 percent tax cap. She said it is of great concern to those in the district. She went on, “The general feeling in the district is should I move? I also know that other districts did not make the drastic cuts that we made last year. The general feeling here is that these cuts are not acceptable. So, I was wondering if you could give me your feelings on these tax cuts.”

Senator Martins said, “Thank you and for getting that out right from the get-go. Let me start by saying a 2 percent tax in this law is just that, a tax cap. There are certain provisions in the law and in the cap that allow the districts to override the cap. The cap itself, in and of itself, in my opinion, does not have the kind of impact on the schools and quality education that you mentioned. It requires that you go beyond that 2 percent tax or for a tax increase that you do have to go out to the public and explain why you need to go beyond that 2 percent. It allows the school board and administrators to come to the public and explain why it is necessary to go beyond the 2 percent and to then go vote for a budget beyond the 2 percent cap.”

Martins continued, “There are a few exceptions and the main point is that the school districts and local governments have to explain why they are proposing a budget beyond that 2 percent cap.”

Board president Turner said, “I just want to make one comment on that point. I think this is an unfair thing to do because now you are pitting people against each. Those who have children in the school and people who have fixed incomes. We have people in this district who are very supportive of education but now they are in a point in their life where the money isn’t what it used to be, they want to stay in their own homes, but they will support a 2 percent tax cap because they are hoping taxes will not go up that much.”

Turner continued, “Mandate relief should have been something that was worked on before the tax cap, because that seems to me is putting the ‘cart before the horse’ and I think if that was in place then the 2 percent cap would have made a lot more sense.”

Martins answered, “Many of us did put a lot of effort trying to get mandate relief when it comes to allowing the school and local government to live within the 2 percent cap. Pitting people against each other is something I don’t understand. What we are dealing with is a budget vote. If, say a 3 percent increase was proposed, the same issues would be decided by those who were voting for it. All the tax cap requires is that when a budget is above that cap you have to explain why the additional monies are necessary. The thing is, you will be guided by those who are voting for it. I truly believe that the public is not going to ‘gut’ its educational system and what makes our communities unique no matter what district it is. What we are all working for is holding the line on taxes, when it comes to quality education and that puts the burden on us legislators to come through in regards to mandate relief. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with all of you but certainly have been working with your superintendent.”

Trustee Peter Grisafi said, “As far as the 2 percent tax cap is that one of the messages that needs to go back to the governor is the unfairness that there can be increases in the health contributions and the retirement contributions but they could go from 10 percent one year to 12 percent the next year. I understand your position but you need to go back to the state and explain to them there are some inequities on how the 2 percent is measured.”

Turner said, “The state could have looked at that and made some adjustments and do that before you implement the tax cap.”

Questions then turned to Supervisor Kaiman and quickly turned to questions regarding his proposal to buy the Roslyn Country Club and to renovate it.

One resident, who lives in Searingtown, asked him why in the world would the town want to acquire that facility and renovate it when there is the Tully Pool, plus the Manorhaven Pool?

She further said that she would never go to that pool especially if the fee would be anywhere from $1,000 to 2,000 to join.

Supervisor Kaiman said, “We have indicated that we want to somehow acquire that parcel and renovate the pool and tennis courts without costing the town any money. I would also mention that Roslyn residents pay taxes for the Tully pool. The bottom line is that when we finally do get a deal it will be a way of preserving open space. But, I don’t know how this is school related.”

The resident said, “It’s tax related and that is school related as well. We have to vote for our school budget, but we don’t have the luxury of voting for our town budget. Further, in addition to paying taxes on both the Tully and Manorhaven pools, we also have to pay to have access to those facilities, over and above the taxes we pay.”

Kaiman said, “The agreement that we are pursing is such that the fee to join is going to be determined by how much it is to operate the facility. The bottom line is to preserve open space, to maintain a pool, if we can do it with the understanding that the cost will be maintained by the user fee. If you don’t want to join that is fine.”

The resident went on to say that her tax dollars, due to her locale are paying for the New Hyde Park pool. She added, “If I want to join the pool, I have to pay a fee. Why should I have to pay a fee to join a pool in Roslyn because, I don’t care what anyone says, you are going to put it on the tax rolls.”

Another resident asked, “About the investigator that checks to make sure that all children attending the Herricks schools are actually residents of the district and that he is working with the town.”

Supervisor Kaiman said, “Yes, we have a great relationship with our building department and the superintendent under the provisions of the school board enable us to work together and we arrange for the investigator to follow up so that we all meet and arrange to have a multi-component to make sure that all the children in the school actually do belong to the district. In fact, we do have an excellent relationship with the schools.”

School superintendent Jack Bierwirth said, “If someone resides in the Herricks School District, we have to educate them whether they are living in a tent or a piece of property or if they are an illegal immigrant or if they are living in an apartment. Our part is to determine if they actually do live in the district and the town’s part is to make sure they are living in legal apartments. As soon as a new resident comes in to register I contact the town to ask if their residence is a legal apartment or home or not. Or, if I get a notice that says family residents are living in the basement or that some other appropriate occupation is being conducted in that house, I turn it over to the town and they report back to me.

“Two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that but now if anyone comes in and says they are renting an apartment in the district I turn it over to the town. The advantage to the town is that they then can go investigate the lease we have been given at registration time.

“The town, like us, also receives anonymous.”

Kaiman then addressed a resident that wanted to know how people, who are not related could live in a residence. He said, “Under the state and federal law, people do not have to be related to live together. There are a lot of variations, so you don’t have to be blood relatives living in one house, but you have to live ‘family style.’ You have share a kitchen and bathrooms and you can’t have locks on all your doors. By creating some kind of separate space within your house that would be a violation. How many people can cohabitate in one, house family style. So if there are too many people in one home we can, through the fire laws, establish that. The issue for us is that if there are separate doors and they are not living ‘family style’ that is a problem for us.”

Kaiman added, “There are certain spaces which are never inhabitable and those spaces are attics and basements. When we inspect some of these house and find out that someone has a bed in the kitchen or in the garage unless those spaces are converted pursuant according to the code.”

Turner said, “But, if you have two families living together, they can even if they don’t have a two-family house.”

Kaiman said, “We are not allowed to judge their relationships or to ask what their relationships are to one another.”

A resident wanted to know how come when you know that house has multiple families it takes so long to establish that residence is illegal. She added, “By the time it is decided the children be graduated from high school.”

Bierwirth said, “We cannot remove anyone that is in the district, but we just tell them they are out.”

Kaiman said, “If you live in an illegal situation we have to shut it down.”

Bierwirth said, “We give the town the lease of the residence the student is living in.”

Kaiman said, “In answer a question about rental registration that anyone who owns property and rents it out, they need a rental registration permit. Thereby establishing that you are an absentee tenant. And, that allows the town to go into the residence and inspect the premises.”

Biewirth said, “You have to prove to me that you actually do live in the house. It is possible for somebody to rent a house but to get into the school you have to get past the registration process, because I do not have the capacity to prove that the residence they are living in is legal.”

Kaiman said, “When we get a call that the home is illegal we then can go into the home and inspect it, after we survey the home, the homeowner has to prove to us that they are living in a legal residence.”    

Both Senator Martins and Supervisor Kaiman both answered a number of questions regarding legal occupancy and how it applies to the district regarding multiple families living in the same home.

Another resident said it wasn’t fair for multiple families to live in one home when they share the costs and that she and her husband pay the taxes on their own.

The discussion finally ended and everyone thanked both Senator Martins and Supervisior Kaiman for coming to the meeting and then went on to the rest of the very long agenda.

In Other Business

Trip to China Approved

Other business covered was the approval of the 2012 school trip to China during the spring break from April 5 to April 16 at a cost not to exceed $4, 380 per student. The students will miss school on Monday, April 16. Note: Students who experience the target language as it is spoken the country of its origin not only improve linguistic skills, but also gain a greater appreciation for the culture and its people.

Trustee James Gournaris questioned why there was only one Tour Company mentioned in relation especially to the China trip since it entailed so much money and why they didn’t have other proposals.

Herricks Superintendent John Bierwirth said that the staff, on their own time, put the trip together, based on their past experience.

Gournaris said there was no notation, as is on the other trips, as to where the students would be having their various meals.

Board President Christine Turner said that the staff, once they are there, because they have been before, make those decisions.

However, Gounaris said that he, as a parent would still like to have all of that information available if he was allowing one of his children to go.

Biewirth said, “Well, if you were a parent of one of these children contemplating that trip you would go to the meeting with the teacher organizers that outlines all that information.”

Golurnaris said, “I just may have to do that because I do think it is important to know when and where the students will be while in China.”

A parent wanted to know the liability of the district for these trips and both superintendent Bierwirth and board president Turner said it is the same as any trip the students may take in the district.

Trip to Spain Approved

The Herricks board also approved the proposed trip to Spain from April 3 to April 12, 2012 for high school students of Spanish classes of Level IV and Level V at a cost not to exceed $3, 500 per student. The students may miss school on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 depending on whether it is a contingency day or not. The purpose of this trip is to promote cultural awareness and language immersion in Spanish.

Trip to Canada Approved

The proposed trip to Canada by the French Department and their families was approved, not to exceed $1,050 from Feb. 12 to Feb. 21. It was noted that the trip will provide many invaluable opportunities for the students to experience firsthand the French language in its cultural content and to appreciate the heritage of the Francophone cultural in such a close proximity.