.

Why You Should Vote No On Your School Budget on May 15

THE STATUS QUO HAS TO CHANGE.

Since 2006 I have advocated for people to vote no and defeat their school budgets. During this time I have been accused of attacking teachers and not caring about quality education. Both of these accusations are incorrect.

I believe in quality education as one of the most important functions of any community―A well-educated society benefits everyone.  I also believe that most teachers do a good job and that most of them are good people.

 However, if I were advocating for lower heating oil prices and lower gas prices, the teachers would support my stand. Like most of us, they probably objected to the exorbitant bonuses received by Wall Street bankers and oil company executives!  They may have expressed outrage at some of the exorbitant salaries received by school administrators!  And some have probably even been against the recent fee passed by Brookhaven for town beaches, which amounts to 1.00/month―And yet these same people have no problem with the $400 to $500 or more annual increases in school taxes.

 What I AM advocating is an end to:

  • Teachers and administrators paying only 15% of their health insurance premiums since 1999. [In my district  (Rocky Point), if they were to pay an extra 10% (for a total of 25%) of the premiums, the district would save $800.000---more than enough to keep full-day kindergarten and still stay below the cap.]
  • Automatic step increases IN ADDITION TO ANY NEGOTIATED SALARY INCREASES:  Step increases are increases in salaries contingent on how many years of service and any additional education credits they accrue. (Yes, they have to pay for further education, but they automatically get increases that are forever, which I am sure amounts to much more than they have spent to get the extra credits.  In the private sector there is no such thing as automatic increases just for showing up!)
  • Being able to accrue up to 190 sick days and be paid for them at the end of their career. This amounts to more than the school year.
  • Ever-increasing annual increases in salaries. Many other unions and certainly nonunion employees have not gotten salary increase in many years. When 70% of property taxes go to school taxes and 70% of school taxes go to salaries and benefits, something is wrong.  In my district, 55 out of 244 teachers/administrators make between $100,000 and $162.000. The average salary on Long Island is $52.000--and, unlike the teachers, who work for 10 months out of the year, that’s for a 12-month position.
  • Increases in school taxes that far exceed the inflation rate. In the last ten years my school taxes have gone up 80%, compared to 27% for the inflation.
  • Out of control pensions and benefits. On May 5th the head of the Long Island Association said on Channel 21 that over the last 10 years pensions for the public sector have gone up 904%. Granted pensions are not controlled on a local level. They are controlled by the state and certainly a battle for another day.  Nonetheless, residents still have to pay that bill.  I don’t think in the private sector pensions have increased by that much for the people who have a plan through their employers.  If anything employer contributions to pensions have been curtailed.  And of course many people have no pension plans.
  • Taxpayer dollars being used for union business. The teacher who is elected union president only has to teach a maximum of three classes. The rest of his/her school day is spent doing union business BUT IS  BEING PAID WITH TAXPAYER DOLLARS TO DO THAT UNION BUSINESS. In my district the union president/teacher was paid $92,000 plus.  Why was he/she not paid by union dues for doing union business?
  • Repeal of the Triborough Amendment. When teachers’ contracts are up for renewal, they should not have the right to have all preexisting items carried over until a new contract is signed. (They have this right under the Triborough Amendment--another battle to be waged on the state level).  Because everything stays in place, the teachers’ union has no reason to negotiate in good faith. They will lose nothing holding out.  And often they also win the concession from the school boards for any new items won in the negotiations to be retroactive. (A few years ago the Rocky Point teachers union held out for three years before they signed the new contract--and everything was retroactive.  They lost nothing by working without a contract.  And the taxpayers keep paying.)

 And for those who say that teachers also have to pay property taxes, I say it’s not the case when what comes out of one pocket goes in the other pocket. When 70% of what they pay and what we pay goes toward their salaries and benefits, they’re not paying the same thing the rest of us are.

To parents concerned that saying no will mean that school programs will be cut, you have a right to be concerned, but not for the reasons you think. The out-of-control increases can’t go on. A revolution is coming. We can no longer allow the status quo to continue. What needs to be done is to first defeat this budget, which means the Board will have to present a new budget. It behooves you to let your voices be heard. Attend the Board meeting. Tell them you don’t want any programs cut. You want concessions from the teachers and administrators and you want a budget that stays below the cap. Let them know what you want for the future!.

 So vote NO on May 15

 For the Rocky Point School District: Go to the

Rocky Point High School Gym

Rocky Point-Yaphank Road

from 7:00am to 9:00pm

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.

Wlodek May 14, 2012 at 11:16 AM
Well said. It is time to put the children's education first.
Phillip May 14, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Agreed, Wlodek. Ernestine, the teachers who are in touch with the state of this economy know that what you're asking isn't an attack on them. They know that we're just asking them to do the right thing for the kids and for the taxpayers. What many of us object to is a continaution of a system that is no longe sustainable. I for one will be voting no and many of my small circle of friends that live in the district will be doing the same thing. Did anyone see the flyer that was in the Pennysaver last week? I hope that it does mean that "a revolution is coming"!
chris schu May 14, 2012 at 09:11 PM
just got a phone call from someone who wanted us to vote YES for the Budget in RP... We are voting NO - they asked why and we said we have not received wage increases in 5 years and everything has increased - we can't take it anymore. And we have a son starting in Kindergarten in sept. - they said you should vote yes for Full Day Kindergarten - as it would be taken away. We are still voting no - get the increase for Full day kindergarten from someon else.
babs mossholder May 15, 2012 at 08:34 PM
When did full day kindergarten become a necessity? When parents didn't want to pay a day care bill because both of them were out of the house... I went to half day kindergarten as did everyone I know in my age group. What is actually happening here is working parents wanting the taxpayers to subsidise the care of their children. It is a heck of a lot cheaper for working parents to have the taxpayer pay for their children's supervision than to actually pay for it themselves. I don't want to pay for your children's supervision.
Brian May 16, 2012 at 03:48 AM
So you support quality education as "...one of the most important functions of any community," but you don't want to treat the providers of that education (yes, that includes administration, teachers, infrastructure, unions, etc) with a living wage and job security? Do you see the problem here?
Captain Howard Hawrey May 16, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Yes we believe that education is one of the most important functions of any community. But we have to treat the providers of educations with the respect they deserve and the living wage and job security that the community can afford. A living wage and job security that is in line with the economic times of the country.
Brian May 16, 2012 at 04:21 AM
I understand and respect your position. However, our teachers do not need to suffer pay cuts and lay offs because of a vague reference to the "economic times of our country." This is a place where my children can learn and thrive with supportive and caring teachers. Not to mention the outstanding programs in art, music, sports, etc. Lowering our standards is the wrong approach if we truly value our resources.
Captain Howard Hawrey May 16, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Thanks for the great reply to my post. No one is talking about lowering the standards for our children. However: and maybe I shouldn't have said the "economic times of our country" but the "economic times of our community", that can only pay so much. Paying more isn't always getting more. Time for accountablilty from all involved and getting paid what your worth and what we can afford is all I'm saying.
RPFather May 16, 2012 at 09:31 AM
Ha ha all,of you...it passed...now stop bashing our schools Kindergarten...here we come!!!!!!!
HerbertC May 16, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Brian Botticelli, do you really think it's fair for many teachers to make six-figure salaries while the average salary on LI is in the mid-50K? If you do, you're either a teacher or only care about how you're affected. Last week there was an insert in the Pennysaver with a lot of information about this district. I didn't take their word for it and went to seethroughny.net to verify the salaries, and in fact it's all true I'm a parent and for for the first time I voted no on the budget. I applaud the group that put out the flyer and plan on seeing what I can do to help. The group is called RPSD Committee for Sustainable Budgets, csbnorthshore@gmail.com, and if you feel the same way you should contact them. I want my kids to get the best education possible but I can longer afford to keep paying these hight taxes.
Phillip May 16, 2012 at 12:45 PM
How mature, RPFather. I hope you're not teaching your children to laugh at opposing opinions. The fact that it passed is not a good thing in the long run and most of us who opposed this budget know that changing the status quo doesn't happen overnight.
Brian May 16, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Herbert, I think you have pinpointed the divide in this debate. Some of us want to raise the tide so our education system as a whole can set the bar for the kind of community we want to live in, and others wish to bring them down to average or below average. The latter group reminds me of crabs in a pot. The reason crab pots don't need lids is that if there is more than one crab in the pot, and one tries to climb out, the others will pull him down, making escape impossible, or at the very least, a struggle. I understand what it takes to live and support a family here and I do, in fact, want the same for educators in our schools. State employees' salaries are public record, but this budget is not necessarily about salaries. In fact, I'm sure you'll be dismayed to read about how insurance companies develop systems and algorithms to ensure the lowest possible level of care with the highest possible cost. These higher level problems are where the true cost of a school budget is inflated, and you won't find those stories in the Pennysaver. I'm not sure how you're arriving at $55K as the average salary, but the truth is that it takes a salary well above that figure to live here comfortably and raise a family. I hope that you see the value in the taxes that you work hard to pay. I know that other places in the nation pay high taxes also, yet don't have schools they would send their kids to if their lives depended on it. I guess my point is we get what we pay for.
HerbertC May 16, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Mr. Botticelli, I think you're living in a vacuum. The 55K average salary comes from the LI Index, which tracks demographic and economic data on LI, including the fact that many of our best young people are leaving the Island becasue they can't afford to stay here. And, you're right, it does cost a lot to live here, but mostly becasue of the property taxes, which have increased by 80 percent over the past 10 years while the inflation rate has only gone up 27 percent. It seems that the only ones who can afford to stay here are the ones getting these ridiculous salaries. I guess the rest of us will just have to leave.
Brian May 16, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I've lived here for 10 years and my property taxes have risen, but only about 10-15% thanks in part to grievance filings, the STAR program, and the unfortunately stagnant housing market. The incentive to live here should be our resources, not just a low tax rate. I really do understand that there are problems with high property taxes, but there are also many benefits. Just consider yourself a state-mandated philanthropist and benefactor for the good of our community. I visited LI Index online, but found their information to rely heavily on conjecture and selective data. I could find no information about average LI salaries, but I suppose the median salary is what we're actually interested in and would tell us more.
brookhavenconfusing May 16, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Well now isn't this interesting... I followed Herbert's lead and went to seethroughny.net myself to check the salaries of the Rocky Point Union Free School district. It shows 569 records with a total budget of $31,729,695, do the math - the average salary comes to $55,763.96. In case that number looks somewhat familiar, "The 55K average salary comes from the LI Index, which tracks demographic and economic data on LI, including the fact that many of our best young people are leaving the Island becasue they can't afford to stay here."
Suki t May 16, 2012 at 04:54 PM
You know that voting down the budget won't affect the teachers' salaries, right?
Brian May 16, 2012 at 07:31 PM
HerbertC and I were referring to the average salaries of all Long Islanders. He is citing the website http://www.longislandindex.org/ which I pointed out is a bit short on raw data. Trust_N01 points out that Rocky Point teachers make an average of 55K which according to HerbertC reflects the average salary of Long Island. We want quality education, but do not want to pay for it? So I am asking again... Do you see the problem here?
RPFather May 16, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Phillip, First don't you dare assume you know how I raise my I am raising my children!!! You do not know me and hopefully never will. If there is one thing I have learned as a parent never judge the way someone else raises their children. So just stop right there. However, let me enlighten you about my amazing abilities as a father. I teach my boys values...the value of a dollar, the value of your actions, the value of perception, the value of education, and the value of what you believe is important to you. Also, as they grow I will reinforce the value of a good education. That my friend is priceless!
RPFather May 16, 2012 at 10:58 PM
You know I've been reading these blogs since the beginning of this whole budget crisis and I realized a few things. I'd like to ask a few of you some questions. 1) Who "paid" for your education? Did you forget where you came from? 2) You guys are all posting at all hours of the day...do you guys work? I know I do so you wont see me post until I get home. (Please forgive me if you are retired or work at night). 3) Do you have a freaking conscience people. These are kids...not dollar signs...soooo selfing
RPFather May 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM
What you clowns have said it a total attack on the entire educational community. You should all be ashamed. Someone paid for your education, dont forget where you came from.
RPFather May 16, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Everywhere you live you will have to pay taxes. If you want to live in a certain area like RP, MP, SWR, or MS then you must pay the taxes that come along with it. Taxes are high on Long Island and I hate paying them as well but as Michael Corleone once said..."that's the price you pay for the life you choose." If you don't like it then MOVE...don't bash others because you are unhappy. Leave LI where the schools don't have a fraction of what we can offer. I will teach them to respect their teachers and their schools. If they have an issue with their teacher they must resolve it, I will not. If I had an issue with my teacher, I fought my own battles, my parents never called. If we then realize that we do not like the school, we'll then leave. That's just a glimpse of who I am. Honestly, I would put my actions as a father against anyone of the people who write on this site.
HerbertC May 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Suki t, you're right, in the short term voting down the budget doesn't affect teachers salaries, but in the long term it could. As long as the Rocky Point Board feels confident that the budget will pass they will make no tattempt to look for the money that the district needs where most of it is spent. They'll just continue to use scare tactics like tey're going to cut kindergarten, which they would never do because parents would then be up in arms. it won't be until there is the concern that the budget will not pass that they'll look at the out-of-control salaries they are now paying.
Phillip May 18, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Trust No1, To come up with your number for Rocky Point teachers you included all of the following: the 29 employees that make $5000 to $10,000, the 44 that make $1000 to $5000, the 31 that make $100 to $1000, and the single employee that makes $77 as well as the 225 that make over $70,000. Your number of $55,000 for teachers salaries in no way reflects reality since I'm sure that none of the teachers make the lower salaries.
brookhavenconfusing May 18, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Phillip, while you're correct about the employees that were included in the average, I suggest you re-read my post; I NEVER said that was the average for Rocky Point TEACHERS. To quote myself, "I followed Herbert's lead and went to seethroughny.net myself to check the salaries of the Rocky Point Union Free School district." HOWEVER, in terms of relating the average salary of the school district with the "average salary on LI" as quoted by HerbertC, I'd have to argue I'm still comparing apples-to-apples since there are no indications how many part-time and/or unskilled, minimum wage jobs are included in his $55K average. The bottom line is that based on the data available, the district apparently pays an average of salaries that are comensurate with the average of salaries across the island.
brookhavenconfusing May 18, 2012 at 12:35 PM
HerbertC's question was "do you really think it's fair for many teachers to make six-figure salaries while the average salary on LI is in the mid-50K?" To answer that fairly, the question really needs to be asked as "do you really think it's fair for many teachers to make six-figure salaries while the average salary on LI for professional jobs that require a minimum of a college Bachelor's degree and a special New York State certification or license is $"how much?"? " While nowhere near my primary profession, I did teach a class at one of the State Universities many years ago, and I offer this suggestion to anyone that thinks it's an easy job with too high a salary and too many benefits... if you think it's so wonderful, why don't you do it.
HerbertC May 18, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Trust No 1, Perhaps you should read my original post. I didn't compare district salaries to the average on LI. I compared area salaries to teachers' salaries. You implied that your figures were related to my figures and they aren't!
brookhavenconfusing May 18, 2012 at 01:08 PM
And I would argue that your post implied that you were comparing teachers' salaries with the salaries for comparable jobs across the Island.
HerbertC May 18, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Trust No 1, perhaps my message wasn't clear, but I have a feeling it's more like you're trying to muddy the waters. Regardless let me clarify. At the root of the discussion is the out-of-control budgets and specifically in the Rocky Point district. This area is not one that is comprised mostly of professionals with high-end salaries. It is made up mostly of middle-class families and most individuals make less than $55k yet they have to also pay for out-of-control salaries and benefits to teachers, which makes up 70 percent of the budget.
brookhavenconfusing May 18, 2012 at 03:40 PM
" It is made up mostly of middle-class families and most individuals make less than $55k yet they have to also pay for out-of-control salaries and benefits to teachers, which makes up 70 percent of the budget" Then I'd suggest you need to present evidence to back up both of those claims - which if you had it, you wouldn't be trotting out the LI Index figure of a $55K LI average. Comparing the total district 2011 salaries ($31.7M, including those Phillip correctly pointed out AREN'T teachers) against the 2011-2012 budget ($69.5M), it only represents ~45% of the budget. And as for muddying the waters, if you're now going to throw in the cost of benefits then all of your "$55K average salary" comparisons go out the window.

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