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Proposed Property Tax Cap Worries School Board

Trustees begin work on school budget with little knowledge of funding levels from Albany.

The discussed the district administration's preliminary budget plan Tuesday night at its work session meeting, stressing that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed property tax cap would have a negative impact on the school district.

While the district begins to formulate its budget for the 2011-2012 school year, it does so without knowing how much state aid it will receive and if the governor’s 2 percent tax cap proposal will be law. Cuomo is expected to release his new budget next month.

Superintendent of Schools Anthony Annunziato said the proposed tax cap would be crippling to public schools, including Bayport-Blue Point. “I don’t know if we can get down to 2 percent,” Annunziato said to the board and community members. “I don’t think we can.”

With the new cap, Annunziato said the district could be broke in just a few years. “Over the next four to five years, the district could find it cannot meet its educational or fiduciary obligations, as it runs though fund balances and reserves,” he said.

In the past, the last three budgets averaged increases of 2.1 percent or $1.5 million raised. The 2 percent cap will only allow for a max increase of $800,000 or a 1.2 budget increase.

So far, the district knows it will be losing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, which account for $625,000 of revenue, and Section 611 funds for special education, which account for $250,000. It will receive $515,000 from Federal Jobs funds for one year only.

However, in order to comply with the 2 percent cap, the district must make an extra $1.1 million in reductions.

“We have to think outside the box,” Annunziato said. “We are not afraid to do that, but the challenge is to provide innovative, yet more cost-efficient programs.”

To save money, the district tried to make reductions that did not directly impact students, such as nixing the school-funded calendars. The sponsored school calendar production because members were allowed to advertise. The administration is also looking to lift unfunded mandates in time to save money.

Significant reductions were also made in terms of tuition. Instead of paying to send special needs students to other districts, they were brought back to Bayport-Blue Point and educated here with new programs.

James March, president of the Board of Education, acknowledged that making significant reductions is not easy task.

“We need to impress upon the community how difficult it was just to get these numbers,” he said.

In order to meet a possible 2 percent tax cap, Annunziato said nothing is off the table. The closing of a school is a possibility and so is a merge with Sayville School District.

Both March and Annunziato stressed that it is up to the community to decide what to do if the 2 percent property tax cap is passed.

Cuomo’s plan does allow for an override of the cap. A 60 percent majority must vote to override if the budget exceeds the cap. However, Annunziato said the district has not had a 60 percent majority vote in recent memory.

On Feb. 8, the district administration will present the 2011-12 budget to the board of education in two versions. One will take into account the proposed 2 percent tax levy increase, and the other will consider the 4 percent tax levy increase.

To view the 2011-12 pre-budget power point presentation, please check out the Bayport-Blue Point School District Board of Education website.

Yvonne Kleine January 20, 2011 at 04:56 PM
We all want the best education possible for the children of our community, but I don't know anyone with an unlimited income. It has gotten to the point where our taxes are higher than the mortgage payment. This is why so many of us are seriously thinking about leaving Long Island altogether. Have you seen the price of heating oil lately? Can anyone really afford $500.00 to $1000.00 a month just for heat? Times are tough for all of us. It is impossible to pay ever increasing , onerous property taxes and buy the necessities of life as well. A two percent cap is more than reasonable.
richard gore January 21, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Agree - a 2% cap is more than reasonable - suggest a cap on salaries and benefits across the board . Richard Gore
Vito January 21, 2011 at 05:46 PM
I agree with others that 2% seems reasonable, especially given the present economy, but are there many contracts or financial obligations already in place that call for greater than 2% increases in salaries or other expenditures? My concern is that any such contracts, which are unlikely to be amended or revoked will mean that the 2% limit will mean programs will be sacrificed or eliminated. Once all future contracts are written or expenditures are made with this reasonable and necessary limit in mind one would hope the district can learn to live within its means, but having such a limit imposed when there may be existing contracts with greater than 2% increases or obligations may mean trouble.
Michelle Rose January 22, 2011 at 01:28 AM
I am afraid that this is going to turn in to a teacher/ administrator salary bashing. I am very happy with our teachers and our administrators and I pray that this doesn't affect the quality education that my daughter currently receives. I think they deserve every penny that they get and that our BP-BP students deserve to receive a top notch education. That being said I think the 2% limit is reasonable but it should not be at the expense of the great education our kids receive here in Bayport.
Rita Palma January 22, 2011 at 02:38 PM
I think we can make it all work with no increase, so, yes, 2% is do-able. As long as all concerned are willing to do it. Open up the contracts.
Tom January 29, 2011 at 06:16 PM
A teacher/administrator salary bashing because of a 2% tax cap? Now that's funny. Long gone are the antiquated propoganda tactics trying to correlate teacher salaries to quality of education and that the reining in of costs is "anti education". We are so much a smarter community than that!
Michelle Rose January 29, 2011 at 08:06 PM
In order to give a student a great education you need a great teacher (among many other things). In order to attract and keep great teachers we need to do what is done in every other profession which is to pay for it. I do not believe that reining in costs is "anti education". I am fearful that our students will suffer if programs are cut and teachers are let go. I think that we are a smart enough community to know that we have great teachers in the district because teachers want to teach here.
Vito January 30, 2011 at 06:43 PM
I don't want to get off track here, and I am not teacher "bashing" but when you start throwing phrases around like "what is done in every other profession" I feel the need to remind you that teachers are NOT treated like those in "every other profession". If that is what teachers really want they need to examine if they are ready to give up things like tenure, compenation detached from performance, guaranteed raises, early retirement, generous leave and vacation times, and an apparent immunity from the realities of the economy. No, I don't think that teachers really want to be treated like "every other profession".
Michelle Rose January 30, 2011 at 10:25 PM
Yes, in the professions that I was referring to for example doctors and lawyers have very advanced degrees as teachers must also. There are very few jobs where you must have a masters degree or higher degree, pay for it yourself and then make half of what the the rest of the people in the job sector are making at those levels of education! What lawyer would think $80,000 a year after 20 years of lawyering is a windfall! This conversation is off topic so I am going to end it here, but yes I was right unfortunately, this has turned into a teacher bashing .
Emily Portoghese January 30, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Hello all, while I'm glad the Patch users who have read this article are passionate about its subject, I'd like to ask you to please keep your comments relevant to the topic of the article. We welcome your comments, and while I'm aware many of the points Patch users raised are related to the tax cap/school budget, please just comment on the content of the article itself. There was no mention of teacher/administrator salaries in the article, and all comments began as polite suggestions and opinions. Thank you, and please, continue to comment away, we love to hear from you- just stick to the topic at hand.
MARY H February 04, 2011 at 08:18 PM
HOW ABOUT NIXING THE SCHOOL CALLING MY HOUSE , WORK PHONE , 2 CELL PHONES , TWICE A DAY TO LET ME KNOW THERE IS A MEETING OR MY CHILD DIDNT COME TO SCHOOL,OR MAYBE NOT SPEND 300,000 ON A CONCESSION STAND OR A MULTI MILLION DOLLAR AUDITORIUM THAT WE USE SECONDARY TO THE JUNIOR HIGH AUDITORIUM OR EVEN CUT DOWN ON THE $50 AN HR FOR SECURITY GUARDS POSITIONS . I HAVE LOTS MORE , WHY DONT THE SUPPOSED HIGHER EDUCATED PEOPLE WHO ARE RUNNING THINGS SEE IT THAT WAY
Victoria Shires-Rothenberg February 21, 2011 at 01:53 PM
I don't know where you get your facts, but most lawyers and doctors do not make the kind of money you think they make. My husband is a lawyer and we wish we had half the pay these teachers, let alone the administrators, receive. He attended the budget meetings two years ago where he found that just about every teacher received a base salary over $100,000 with some topping out above $150,000, and this for only 180 to 190 days of work a year, with most teachers hightailing it out of the classroom to tutoring jobs at the homes of the children they fail to teach during the day. My husband has to struggle to get new clients every day. He has no guarantee salary and has to earn it and meet the trust of his clients every day in order to be able to earn a living, putting in 10 to 15 hours a day just to due this. Teachers get a nice defined benefit plan pension to retire with a fixed income by the time they reach 55. My husband has to contribute all of the money towards his own retirement, which will not be for another 15 years or so, and he is already 54. Teachers do not need to have a master’s degree before they can start teaching and can earn it over time, and deduct the costs of this education off their taxes. My husband had to have the law degree before he could even start working, none of it tax deductable. Sorry, teachers get no sympathy from me or my husband. These budgets across Long Island are so over bloated, they need to be cut by 25%, through lay-offs or give backs.
Victoria Shires-Rothenberg February 21, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Did you read your own article. You bring up the 2% cap. How do you think a budget would meet such a cap. You have to cut costs or raise revenue. If you are concerned about the Bayport Blue Point budget exceeding this State imposed cap, then you have to be concerned with the income and expenses that create the budget in the first place. The costs consists of salaries paid to teachers and administrators, as well as the costs of the DEFINED BENEFIT PENSIONS. People are going to comment on the topic and expand out on the basis of other comments. This is free speech and democracy at work. This is what journalism is all about. Look for topics out of the comments for further articles. The article was good and the comments make up the ongoing debate that makes our country great.
Victoria Shires-Rothenberg February 21, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Taxes have gone 5% this year Cuomo is proposing a 2% tax cap that is better than nothing. Property values on the south shore have plummeted leaving a lot of folks underwater. Teachers unions are advertising that if Cuomo’s tax plan comes to fruition there are loop holes to get around this. Nothing changes in this district. Get rid of defined benefit convert over to a 401k have teachers take cut in salaries so that way teachers don't loose their jobs. The only teachers who should loose their jobs are the ones not performing do away with tenure. How about teachers and administrators start becoming part of the solution and not the problem? The only concern they have is for the protection of their pensions, salaries and benefits. Enough is enough. The union advertises that if we don't vote for the budget it hurts our kids, guess what our kids are already being hurt. Just think how much money the union would save if they didn't advertise and put that money towards education instead of campaigning. Bayport Blue Point $64 million + budget 2300 students $23,000.00 per year per student that is an ivy league education. I don't believe you can classify Bayport Blue Point as Ivy League at best it is mediocre. Another issue is how many teachers are running out the door at 2:30-3:00 to tutor and to tutor students in the same district and get paid for it. Education has become a racket not a profession.
Vito February 21, 2011 at 04:02 PM
While I resisted the desire to respond further out of respect to our editor, salaries and benefits make up 70 to 80% of the budget in most LI school districts. It is impossible to have a realistic discussion of school finances without including those subjects.

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