Friday, 05 April 2013 00:00
Most surrounding districts will present budgets within their allotted tax caps of approximately 2 percent but the Manhasset School District has presented a budget that will raise our school tax levy 8.8 percent and without a pledge to meet the tax cap in the future, we can expect a similar increase next year. The superintendent has cited numerous causes for this sorry situation; increased pension costs, less state aid, mandates, Federal sequester and increased enrollment. Since pension costs, state aid, mandates and the Federal sequester are common to all districts and most will not pierce their cap, the only cause cited that is unique to Manhasset is increased enrollment.
A careful look at the Manhasset enrollment statistics is warranted. Actual and projected enrollment between 2007 and 2016 averages 16 more students per year. With proper leadership and planning, 16 students could have easily been accommodated in a student body of approximately 3000 without resorting to massive tax increases. This year, 2013, enrollment will actually begin to decline by 26 students and is projected to continue to decline through 2016, and yet, this year, the district added over 11 new staff members. Personnel costs continue to account for over 75 percent of the school budget.
It should be noted that the 2 percent tax cap specifically makes no meaningful exemption for normal increases and decreases in enrollment. The legislation was written with the expectation that regular changes in enrollment could easily be managed with a 2 percent tax cap, proper management and leadership. Therein lies the problem, the administration has not demonstrated the management, leadership or willingness to rein in excessive spending and live within the letter and spirit of the 2 percent tax cap. Instead, the Manhasset School District depleted the school reserves to conduct business as usual. In fact, they have continued to spend as if there were no cap and no recession.
According to school district presentations and recent letters to the editor, there will be dire consequences if the budget fails. Some residents have even admitted that they are “scared to death” if the budget fails. They should be scared if the budget passes.
It has all the trappings of a political campaign: tax AND spend.
On May 21, you can finally stop the tax and spend mentality. Vote No Plus No For No New Taxes. If the first vote fails, you must vote No a second time for better management, leadership and no new taxes.