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Letter: MPSA and PWEA Support School Budget

For the first time ever, the Manhasset Proponents of School Accountability (MPSA) and the Port Washington Educational Assembly (PWEA) are supporting the proposed school budgets in our communities, as both budgets are meeting the new tax cap limits. While both of our groups favored a budget with no tax increase in these difficult times, in the interest of unifying our communities, we agreed to support any budget that met the new tax limit even though the budget increases ($1.5 million in Manhasset and $2.7 million in Port Washington) are, for the most part, increases in employee salaries and benefits.

However, in regard to salary and benefits, many Long Island teachers are agreeing to salary concessions, as they realize there are literally thousands of qualified teacher applicants for teaching jobs, and that LI teachers now have the highest salaries of all teachers in the nation. Manhasset teachers should be commended for agreeing to defer their STEP increases for half a year in each of the next two years, and taking a zero COLA increase for this coming school year and only a 1 percent increase the following year. Unfortunately, Port Washington teachers failed to make similar concessions and will continue to receive salary increases of 12 percent over the next two years.

It should be noted, for the first time, there is recourse for residents who consider their school taxes burdensome and object to any increase in the budget. The new law offers them real relief and real power. If any budget is defeated twice, the allowable tax increase is zero.

Finally, we advocate key reforms in Albany if we are going to avoid having to choose between unreasonable tax increases or program cuts down the road. The Triborough Amendment must be changed to eliminate the continuation of STEP increases after a union contract expires, so as to put the union under the same pressure as school boards during contract negotiations. Today all the pressure is on school boards. Second, we need tenure reform to improve educational quality and not be forced to layoff well performing young teachers to the detriment of educational excellence. Third, we need more pension reform as current pensions are still far too generous with the bulk of the costs borne by the taxpayers. Finally, Wicks Law must be changed to reduce the waste in large construction projects. Unfortunately, many politicians are intimidated by teacher unions and refuse to deal with these needed reforms. That is a battle for another day.

Laurann Pandelakis, MPSA
Frank J. Russo, Jr., PWEA