Taxpayers Give School Budgets The Axe In Garden State
Could the overwhelming defeat of school budgets in New Jersey be a forboding forecast for Long Island's vote, set for May 18?
Voters just across the river defeated a record number of school budgets -- 59% failed -- many in districts where education was long considered sacrosanct.
Already faced with the highest property tax burden in the nation (followed closely by Westchester and Nassau counties in New York), New Jersey homeowners are saying "no more" to the raiding of their bank accounts.
No longer only a matter of school district largess and excess, to many voters, it's a question of economic survival.
Folks are out of work, or barely clinging to jobs, unable to make ends meet. They're losing their homes, unable to put food on the table, facing stacks of bills that remain unpaid. The tree is bare.
Here on Long Island, administrators and school boards alike are duly concerned. And well they should be.
The tax revolt in Jersey -- more like a tax revulsion -- should come as no surprise, however. It's simple economics. We can no longer afford to keep digging deeper and deeper into our almost empty pockets to finance eduction.
Bottom line: It's the property tax, stupid!
The regressive means of funding education -- whether in New Jersey or here on Long Island -- is being rejected by voters, even in districts previously considered safe. A strong message of enough, already, is being sent, not only to school boards (most of which try their utmost to trim, cut, and save within the constraints of contractual obligations, unfunded mandates, rising costs in pensions, insurance, and transportation, and demands of "more, more, more" from the likes of teachers' unions), but to State Legislators as well -- the ultimate arbiters (should they choose to act at all) in the property tax debacle.
And it's not necessarily the increase in school budgets that worries voters, but rather, the rise in the tax rate, particularly nasty this year given the drastic cuts in aid to education likely to come from Albany. While, for instance, a district's 2010-11 budget may increase but 3.69% over the previous year, the resulting increase in the tax levy (what residents actually pay) could be as high as 9.40%. Tax levy increases in the range of 10% may be the norm on Long Island this year, rather than an aberration.
To put it bluntly, such tax burden upon Long Island's struggling homeowners cannot be sustained!
The State pays less, the taxpayer pays more. The equation is that simple, and that painful.
Opposition to local school budgets is already mounting, and the call to vote "no" is going out across Long Island.
A flyer being distributed in Elmont and Franklin Square spells it out in dollars and cents, and could well portend the way of next month's vote:
SUPPORT THE SCHOOL BUDGET TAX REVOLT
● NEW YORK STATE IS FACING AN $8.2 BILLION DOLLAR DEFICIT.
● UNEMPLOYMENT IS AT 9.7% AND PEOPLE ARE LOSING THEIR HOMES.
● THE INFLATION RATE FOR THE PREVIOUS YEAR IS -0.5%.
SO WHAT DO THE SCHOOL DISTRICTS DO?
● GIVE SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENTS WHO MAKE OVER $250,000/YEAR A 5% RAISE.
● GIVE PRINCIPALS, TEACHERS, AND OTHER SCHOOL EMPLOYEES RAISES.
● INCREASE SPENDING 3.7% (over $5 MILLION DOLLARS), WHICH INCREASES YOUR TAXES 4.2%.
● USE CASH RESERVES TO HIDE THE REAL INCREASE, WITHOUT WHICH, THE TAX INCREASE WOULD BE OVER 7% .
THIS MEANS ANOTHER SIMILIAR TAX INCREASE IS LIKELY NEXT YEAR.
● ISSUE THE USUAL THREATS TO OUR CHILDREN THAT THEY WILL CUT AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS IF WE DON'T GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, NO MORE TAX INCREASES!!!
● SCHOOL SPENDING EXCEEDS THE RATE OF INFLATION YEAR AFTER YEAR AND IS OUT OF CONTROL.
● THE EMPLOYEES OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICTS RECEIVE GENEROUS PAY AND BENEFIT PACKAGES PAID BY THE TAXPAYER AND PUBLIC DEBT.
● IT IS TIME FOR OUR SCHOOL EMPLOYEES TO MAKE SOME SACRIFICES, THE TAXPAYER HAS GIVEN MORE THAN THEIR FAIR SHARE.
VOTE TUESDAY MAY 18, 2010
CALL YOUR LOCAL SCHOOL FOR YOUR POLLING LOCATION
A call for "shared sacrifices across the board?" Surely, this is not the rant of unhinged extremists, but the reasoned voice of parents, grandparents, professionals and blue collar workers who have had it with being taxed to debt.
Hard to argue with the facts, notwithstanding our innate desire to see every budget pass, a "YES" vote at the fingertip of each voter. Truth is, we, as individual taxpayers, as homeowners, as a community, as New Yorkers, can no longer afford to pay and pay some more.
It's not the children Long Islanders are pissed at -- though they will be the ones to suffer the most -- it's those damned property taxes. [Translate that into a "NO" vote for your sitting State Legislator in November, and you may just have something!]
While our anger may well be misdirected, and the outcome of our rath unintended, can we really blame Long Islanders for following New Jersey's lead in sending school budgets back to the drawing board?
We care about our kids, and want the best for them, particularly when it comes to their education. But, as one Nassau County community activist told The Community Alliance, "We're nurturing ourselves into bankruptcy!"
Mad as hell are the taxpayers of Long Island. Who can blame them?