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.