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Vote NO If Rocky Point School District Pierces the Tax Cap

Think outside the box. Unsustainable school budgets have to stop.

The proposed Rocky Point school budget pierces the 2% tax cap and, if accepted by the Board, will be an increase of 2.97 percent. In case you think this is the number by which your taxes will actually increase, that’s not so. The tax levy, which is what you actually pay, could easily be four or five percent. In order to pass, 60 perecent of voters must approve this budget. That’s why it’s so important to vote on May 15 and to vote no.

It’s up to us to make the district more accountable on how it spends our money. If the budget is defeated on May 15, the district will propose a second budget. If this second budget is defeated, there will be no increase from last year.

 Remember NO + NO = 0% increase

According to the proposed budget, in order to stay under the 2% tax cap, the district would need to make cuts estimated at up to $1 million. To do this they say they would have to move to 1/2 day kindergarten, eliminate middle school sports and some co-curricular activities, and reduce some staff.  These are not the items that have increased school taxes to unsustainable levels.

What needs to be considered are those parts of the budget that would give the taxpayers some relief while at the same time not cutting programs―and these items are salaries and benefits. For example, health insurance currently costs the district about $6.8 million with teachers’ contribution at only 15%. 

If teachers agreed to contribute, say, 25%, the district’s share would be reduced to about $6 million, a saving of about $800,000.  All that would be needed then is another $200,000 in savings, and the budget could be kept below the cap without making any cuts. Asking teachers to do this isn’t a comment on the quality of their teaching. I believe most teachers are dedicated people who try and do a good job. They are simply being asked to share the pain. Most of us in the private sector have had to pay more for our health insurance―some even pay for all of it.

Another way to cut the budget that would allow the district to stay under the cap without cutting programs is to ask teachers to not take a contractual increase. They would still be better off than most of us in the private sector. Whereas in the private sector there hasn’t been a cost-of-living increase for years, teachers would still get their step increases. Again we’re just asking them to share the pain.

These are just two examples. I’m sure there are more. Contracts in the Rocky Point District are currently being negotiated so there is no reason contractual items can’t be considered in this budget cycle!

And to those who want to guilt us by saying that they pay taxes too and, because they are so dedicated to education, have no problem with piercing the cap, I say this: School taxes make up almost 70% of property taxes and 70% of the school taxes go to salaries and benefits! So, with all due respect, when 70% of what everybody pays, including you, goes back into your pocket, you don’t pay what the rest of us pay.

Finally, if you’re concerned that voting down this budget means there will be cuts to extracurricular programs, please consider this: Unless School Board members, administrators, teachers, and taxpayers are willing to put a stop to business as usual and look at the items that will really help, these cuts and more will happen. We cannot continue on the road we’re on. If we do, many of us will not be able to continue living here, and that includes the kids being educated now. Long Island is already losing its best and brightest young people and that’s only going to get worse.

The Rocky Point budget will be presented to the Board for adoption on April 18th at 7:00 pm at the Carasiti School. Come to the meeting and let your voice be heard.

Also, be sure that you are registered to vote. If you’ve voted in a national, state, or local election, you’re registered to vote on the budget. If not, make sure you register. The last date to register is May 10th at the district office.

Defeat the budget with your No vote.  Say no to budgets that are unsustainable. Long term we need to think outside the box.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

AnotherLocalMom April 02, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Ernestine, you're absolutely right that we need to think beyond short-term solutions. I have two children in the Rocky Point schools and have always voted yes to the budgets, Not this year, though. My oldest will soon be graduating and, the way things are going, when he graduates from college, chances are he won't be coming back here to live. He won't be able to afford it unless he moves back home. Although I'm not happy about some of the cuts that are proposed, my family is also feeling the pinch of this climate. Teachers just don't seem to get it. All they seem to think about is themselves while constantly saying that it's all about the kids!
Phillip April 03, 2012 at 11:06 AM
If the proposed budget is accepted by the Board, I think what we would actually pay could be up to six percent or more. This is unacceptable in this economy. Many of us are experiencing pay freezes, and that's if we're lucky enough to have a job. And, thank you, AnotherLocal Mom, for realizing that thinking short term doesn't really help our young people. Businesses are leaving the island becasue of property taxes so where are our young people supposed to work? Add to that the fact that they can't afford to live here, alslo because of the property taxes, and what we might be left with in 10 years or so are the teachers and their families. I really hope people are thinking about all this.
MPmustChange April 03, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Phillip: I think the ones that really care are thinking about this. You say that in 10 years the only ones that will be left are teachers and their families.....you are some what correct. They will be the only ones left, but for a very short time. The private industry is what pays for public workers. Without them (should say us) there will be no public work or workers needed. So we all lose. The main problem that people dont understand is that the School District's Employees want to be compensated as if they were in the private sector, but yet they will not operate like a private business. So you are left with a an employee that is highly compensated with no accountability. IE Tenure and alike. The administration wil lead you to believe that, with all state cuts and mandates, we have a Revenue problem. Nothing can be further from the truth. Only Private Sector Business has a Revenue Problem. Public Sector services can only have a Spending Problem. You cannot have a Revenue problem if you dont produce a Sellable product. PUBLIC School Districts do not sell products, they provide services. Quick Example: Private School. A Private School is a business. If you choose not to send your child to a private school you are not charged their tuition. The owner of the private school has the right to hire and fire teachers and staff as they wish. They also set the cost of their "product" as they wish...which is ultimately decided by the market they are in.
Claudine M Jalajas April 19, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Really interesting blog post. All the staff are currently wearing buttons, "We love kindergarten." So I asked and they said, "You have to vote yes for the budget or we're losing kindergarten." My first impulse is YES.. who takes away kindergarten? So I did a search trying to find some more information and found this blog post. found myself thinking--wait a second.. let's vote NO. Where can I get more detailed information about all of this?
Wlodek April 20, 2012 at 10:42 PM
What you see is the scare tactics used by the district. All RPSD needs to do to keep the budget within the tax cap limits is to make the contracts affordable and fair to the community. So talk to your friends, have them follow the Patch and encourage them to vote NO on the budget. The tax cap law was introduced to protect the taxpayers from growing out of control school budgets.
AnotherLocalMom April 25, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Check out some of the comments to this article: http://millerplace-rockypoint.patch.com/articles/rocky-point-board-adopts-super-s-budget It seems all Rocky Point would have to do to save kindergarten and avoid all staff reductions is ask the teachers and administrators to pay an extra 10% in their health insurance. Since contracts are currently under negotiation there's not reason they can't do it. They currently only pay 15%. I too have always voted yes on the budget because I tought it was about the kids. But no more. It seems the only way theyre going to do the right thing for everyone is if they're forced to!
Ernestine Franco May 01, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Today, May 1st, the Rocky Point School Board is having its Public Hearing on the School Budget. I find it telling that they are having this "public" meeting at 5:30 in the afternoon, much too early for people who work to attend. If they wanted the "public" to attend, shouldn't they have scheduled it for later in the evening? They usually schedule board meetings and other budget meetings at 7:00. I guess they really do not want the public to attend this "public" meetings. If you can attend it is at 5:30 in the FJC Library.
Alicia Palifka May 07, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Not only are they wearing the pins.. (which overall is their choice and they are free to do) BUT..and heres the big issue...to have kids coming hom telling their parents they have to vote YES or there will be no Kindergarten? Seriously..that should NEVER take place..that is the teachers using the children..It's manipulative and not at all respectful to put the children in the middle of this.I don't one to hear one person say it isn't happening .I will contact every single parent and encourage them to call the Principals. (Yes.Principals with a S)(maybe they already have done so...) It is happening in FJC, JAE and the middle school as well. They want to wear the pins..fine..just leave the kids out of the conversation and stop telling them what to tell their parents!!!!!
Alicia Palifka May 07, 2012 at 01:10 AM
@Ernesto.....I want to thank you for your efforts in educating the public...You've done an incredible job at the attempt of trying to get others to understand what's going on in this district.We are all struggling to survive.We are living in an increasingly poor economy and to imagine our taxes going up even more is unimaginable.The answer is this.When in our own houses when we must cut back we do it. Well..same for the school. Enough with the guilt trips that gets piled on people like us who basically want Fiscal Responsibility.We have to do it in our own house to survive!
outofhear May 08, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I have a 5 year old, He is going to Kindergarten in Sept (full day in Rocky Point). I get this letter the other day and to me - I feel I have the guilt trip put upon me. The letter reads that if I don't vote YES to the budget that either Full day kindergarten will be cut in half or totally taken away. No other programs were mentioned but because they know I have a son going into Kindergarten in Sept. they want me to vote in favor. Now come on here, do school boards need to put upon the taxpayer THREATS, We all pay taxes and some of us have not received raises in years (5 in my case and 4 in my husbands case) - we are just making it. I see school administrators making over $120,000, you tell me those people can't take a pay cut, pay more into health care or other concessions- I am lucky my husband and I make that combined. School boards are going to have to find ways of reducing costs otherwise you will see people leaving the Island - my company says do more with less WHY SHOULD THE SCHOOLS BOARDS DO THE SAME THING !!!
outofhear May 08, 2012 at 06:09 PM
agreed - My husband and I are thinking of staying til my son is in high school and then leaving can't afford it
Alicia Palifka May 08, 2012 at 06:51 PM
@outofhear...I'm with you on all that you said!!!
Ernestine Franco May 08, 2012 at 11:19 PM
To Outofhear: Shame on whoever sent you that letter. Who was it? This just shows that there is no moral fiber in the administration and teachers at the Rocky Point Schools. That they resort to threats and hold children and parents hostage is pathetic. Two weks ago I worte an email to Sperintendent Ring asking about a rumor that kindergarten was being used to pressure parents, and he assured me that it was not true. Obviously he doesn't know what is going on in his district OR he doesn't want to know. Remember teachers are negotiating a contract NOW: If they would pay 25% for their health insurance instead of the 15% they now pay, it would save $800,000--more than enough to save kindergarten and all the other problems. I am not sure that I would want my kids taught by people who act like this!
AnotherLocalMom May 09, 2012 at 11:07 AM
I was at the last board meeting and this came up then. Several people whose children were in kindergarten said the same thing had happened with them. Dr. Ring's response was that he didn't think this was going on, but if it was parents should contact the principal. Obviously this is going on. Why didn't he know? Or is it jus that he doesn't want to admit it? The Board should step in on this and tell these teachers these strong-arm tacticts are unethical. And, although in the past I've always voted yes on the budget, I'm convinced that the only way to get these people to do the right thing is to vote no. This is what I'll be doing. We parents shouldn't be so naive as to think that if we keep letting them have their ways school programs will be protected. They can only keep doing that for so long. Eventually they will cut programs if we don't send a message that they can't just keep lining their pockets while the rest of us have less and less.
Alicia Palifka May 09, 2012 at 01:00 PM
@AnotherLocal Mom..Well said.
Alicia Palifka May 09, 2012 at 01:01 PM
With all the comments this person named John Doe has made on made on The Patch I sure hope he isn't a teacher as if he is he has acted terribly on this board in my opinion.
outofhear May 09, 2012 at 02:00 PM
It came from the Rocky Point School District headquarters - letterhead and all. It said nothing of any other program cuts (sports or anything else) - just said that if the budget does not get passed you will not have full day Kindergarten and the potential of losing Kindergarten all together. It is horrible. And for an administrator to say there are no threats - I just registered my child in Rocky point school district I have no other kids. So that letter was blatant towards me. If we lose Kidgergarten all together I will have no other choice but to drive to Queens and change my address on my drivers license, add my name to a utility bill and send my child to a school there where it is full day kindergarten.
outofhear May 09, 2012 at 02:02 PM
AGREE VOTE NO!!!!!!!!!! VOTE NO TO STRONG ARMING PEOPLE AND GETTING AWAY WITH IT !!!!!!!!!!!
AnotherLocalMom May 09, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Who signed the letter?
MPmustChange May 09, 2012 at 03:23 PM
These threats are the only way they can persuade you to pass this budget. They know that working parents need Kindergarten so they can get to work. Believe me that would be the last thing they will pull out. That means they would have to lay off all Kindergarten teachers. Not going to happen. They are making you look at this one item of the budget while they pass all the other crap in through the back door!!!! Easy solution. Vote NO. Make the BOE and Admin do their job....propose a budget that is both beneficial to the community and employees. By doing this the children will benefit in the long run.
ZOOTCH May 14, 2012 at 02:17 PM
IT'S ABOUT TIME THAT TAXPAYERS ARE ASKING WHY TAXES ARE SO HIGH IN THIS DISTRICT. USING THREATS IS UNACCEPTABLE. EVERY TAX PAYING HOMEOWNER IN THIS DISTRICT SHOULD VOTE "NO" ON THE BUDGET.

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