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Letter: Senate Has Work to Do to Control Property Taxes

While Senator Dean Skelos and his colleagues are playing political games in Albany, the state budget deficit keeps ballooning and nothing is being done to control property taxes. When this chaos ends, legislators should tackle rising education costs. To do that, teachers’ and school administrators’ salaries must be frozen and their lifetime health benefits eliminated since over half of our property taxes go for paying these salaries and benefits.

In the last 10 years, property taxes to finance education have gone up 72 percent while the Consumer Price Index rose 27 percent. We have the nation’s highest property taxes, 78 percent above the national average. One reason for this: Long Island public school teachers receive average pay increases of over 6 percent each year and contribute little to the cost of their health insurance.

Teachers’ salaries on Long Island are 65 percent above the United States average and more than 40 percent of Island teachers earn over $100,000 a year. This drives up the cost of educating students. We pay about $10,000 more to educate students than schools nationwide.

In the Franklin Square School District, a kindergarten teacher who now earns $104,626 will be getting $115,674 at the end of the current three-year contract.

Senator Skelos should terminate the month-long stalemate in Albany and concentrate on reducing spending and freezing property taxes. New York taxpayers are facing a gloomy fiscal outlook. The teachers’ retirement fund lost so much in the stock market that schools’ pension contributions will soon soar. Federal stimulus money is expected to disappear by 2011 so the state may have to reduce school aid.

Retirees, particularly, are being hit with, dismal fiscal news: The government forecasts that for the next two years, and maybe longer, Social Security recipients will not receive any cost of living adjustments.

George Rand