Thursday, 18 April 2013 00:00
This is the fourth in a series of articles from CACLA, in which we discuss the subject of unfunded mandates and how they impact the Manhasset Public School District. It is this committee’s goal to educate the community on this subject matter in particular, as it has significant current and long-term ramifications.
An unfunded mandate is a statute or regulation (coming from the state or federal government) that requires, in this case, a local public school district to fulfill the requirements of the mandate without adequate funding. The dollar expense of the unfunded mandate must come from the only revenue source a public school district has, i.e., the property taxes each resident is required to pay.
Before we get into the Wicks Law discussion, it is critical that you know the following: as a result of many unfunded mandates, the 2013-2014 Superintendent’s Preliminary Working Budget originally exceeded the permitted tax levy cap by $5,720,950. At its April 10 meeting, the board reduced the preliminary working budget by $1,654,568 by taking advantage of a new law permitting the spreading out of pension increases which reduces the spike in payments when the stock market declines and by reducing 7.2 full-time equivalent positions in addition to other savings.
Should the budget not pass with a 60 percent supermajority vote on May 21, to reduce the budget further to stay within the tax levy cap, we present examples of what potentially could be cut from our schools:
Reduction of up to 11 positions at the elementary school level increasing class size in several cases up to a projected 30 in a class.
Reduction of up to 14 positions at the secondary school, thus increasing class size and eliminating some course offerings.
Eliminating ALL before and after school programs and activities - no clubs, enrichment programs, theatre, music, etc.
Eliminating ALL interscholastic athletics, middle school, JV, and Varsity
Additional reductions throughout the budget necessary to conform to the contingency budget rules, impacting facilities, equipment, administration and other non-teaching personnel.
In summary, to stay within the permitted tax levy cap this year would require dismantling Manhasset’s excellent educational program. Members of CACLA feel that if the budget fails to pass on one vote (which requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass due to the tax levy cap legislation), it will begin to erode the ability of the district to continue to offer meaningful and challenging opportunities for all students.
In this article, we will look at the impact the Wicks Law has on the Manhasset Public School District
The Wicks Law, designed to prevent school district corruption and kick backs to the schools is an unfunded mandate because its requirements make it much more costly for schools to do maintenance, or any type of construction, than if the law didn’t exist. Under Wicks, each part of a job has to be bid separately to separate companies for plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and contractor work. As a result, there is more paperwork and cost, in the completion of the work. The district is prohibited from acting in the taxpayer’s best interests and seeking efficiencies and economies of scale by concentrating spending with a few providers with which the district has had good results. The Wicks Law applies to jobs over a minimum threshold, and for jobs under that threshold, there is always the risk of litigation from contractors claiming in fact, the job exceeded the Wicks threshold. Nor does the law prevent bid rigging or other abuses from subcontractors. Simply put, if one wanted to build a new kitchen or house addition, one would logically employ a contractor for an agreed price, and that contractor would in turn pick subcontractors to coordinate the work, and be responsible for timely completion in accordance with the specifications of the job. It’s hard to put a dollar cost to Wicks, but we believe there is a great deal of agreement concerning the view that Wicks makes construction more complex and expensive.
You will find all budget-related presentations (department by department and in total) on the school district’s website at: www.manhasset.k12.ny.us.
CACLA is a committee consisting of the following Manhasset residents:
Paul A. Baumgarten, Chairperson
Marianne Tomei, Secretary