School aid cuts will cause tax hikes — even with reserves drained

02/09/2011 6:00 PM |
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead's Pulaski Street School.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead's Pulaski Street School.

Get ready for a healthy school tax hike.

Spending in the Riverhead School District would increase by 3.28 percent, or more than $3 million, under superintendent Nancy Carney’s proposed $111.8 million 2011-12 school year budget, a draft of which she unveiled at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. But the tax levy — the amount of cash the district collects from taxpayers — would go up 5.7 percent for 2011-12, which is $5.2 million.

That’s because Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed cutting $2.9 million, 16 percent, in state aid to the Riverhead district, causing administrators to plan for the worst, school officials said.

School districts also won’t be receiving federal stimulus funds in the 2011-12 year, which had been the case this school year, during which Riverhead received $750,952 in stimulus funds.

The governor’s proposal is part of a plan to eliminate a $10 billion state deficit.

The neighboring Shoreham-Wading River school district is facing an 11.62 percent state aid cut, or $985,326, courtesy of the governor’s first state budget proposal, which proposes to cut aid by 10 percent in Suffolk County and 7.3 percent statewide, reportedly one of the largest proposed statewide cuts ever.

”This is the worst it’s ever been,” Ms. Carney told the News-Review last week. She said that while governors customarily propose steeper cuts than what ends up being approved in the final state budget, the district still has to plan its budget based on the governor’s numbers, unless it gets other information.

“It’s totally not what we were expecting,” she continued. “We thought we might lose 5 percent of our state aid. We’re losing about 16 percent of our state aid. It’s huge.”

State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said the proposed cuts to Long Island schools were out of proportion with cuts elsewhere, and he said the state Senate’s new Republican majority seeks to change that.

“These are extremely difficult economic times and everyone is being asked to do more with less,” Mr. LaValle said. “However, no single region of the state should shoulder an unfair proportion of cuts to education. As in the past, the Long Island Senate delegation will work together to ensure L.I. schools are not being asked to underwrite cuts in education for other areas of the state.

“We will ensure that Long Island is treated fairly and equitably within the budget footprint.”

The final budget vote is May 17, but officials in Riverhead cannot make accurate tax rate estimates at that time because the district is split between three towns that have separate tax rates that are affected by factors like final state aid numbers, equalization rates and town assessment figures — which don’t become final until later in the year.

Ms. Carney said that 61 percent of the proposed increase is due to big increases in Teachers Retirement System contributions and the Employees Retirement System. Those numbers are dictated by the state and the district has little control of them. Combined, the two funds are scheduled to increase 40 percent, or $2.2 million, according to Ms. Carney.

Contractually mandated increases from negotiated and previously approved labor contracts also amount to $2.1 million, and would account for a 2.55 percent increase in the tax levy by itself, the superintendent said.

The projected 5.7 percent tax levy increase includes the use of $3.375 million in reserve funds to offset taxes, according to the draft budget proposal. Without the use of those reserves, the increase would have been about 7.8 percent.

The draft budget would use almost all the district’s reserve funds, which Ms. Carney said come to about $3.5 million. Governor Cuomo has said that most districts have enough reserve funds on hand to offset the aid cuts.

The superintendent said her spending plan proposes cuts to all sections of the budget, and will impact administrators, teachers and nonteaching staff.

The district is considering cutting some extracurricular activities, some sports programs, instituting larger class sizes, making staff cuts, with further reduction in building maintenance and fewer bus stops, she added.

“We have no choice but to make the cuts as if [state aid reductions] are going to happen,” school board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse said during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Ms. Carney said that if the budget had simply rolled over all existing costs, and factored in cost-of-living increases and increases in contractual issues like salaries, the spending increase would have been around 7 percent.

The school board has about three months to adopt a budget, which will be presented to the community for the May 17 vote.

As for the Shoreham-Wading River district, its outgoing superintendent has yet to draft a proposed budget.

“That’s a tremendous sum of money,” board president Jack Costas said of the possible $985,326 state aid cut. “Obviously we are going to be facing cuts ­— probably in athletics. We’re seeing where we might be able to eliminate teaching positions through attrition or, if we have to, layoffs. There’s always that possibility.”

Mr. Costas said “the only way to make up for the shortfall in aid is to increase the tax levy or to apply prior year state aid funds to bridge the gap.”
Shoreham-Wading River, which has a current budget of $57.9 million, is also losing $354,607 in stimulus funds.

“We’re in the beginning stages of formulating our budget,” Mr. Costas said. “It’s very difficult to propose a budget when Albany itself has not passed their budget. It’s a little bit of a guessing game. We’ll take the most conservative estimates available and that’s how we’ll formulate the budget.”

The governor is proposing to cut school aid by $1.5 billion statewide, but says this represents only 2.9 percent of total school expenditures across the state.

School aid is the largest state-supported program and represents 29 percent of New York’s general fund, the governor said in his budget address.

To offset some cuts moving forward, Mr. Cuomo hopes to develop a $250 million statewide grant system through which money would be awarded on a competitive basis to school districts that demonstrate significant improvement in student performance outcomes, and another $250 million to districts that undertake long-term structural changes to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

tgannon@timesreview.com

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336 Comment

  • They just don’t get it. Looks like we’re going to have to force the district to swallow a contingency budget by voting this, and the second proposal to follow, down.

  • A contingency budget is mandatory by the State, it cant be voted down.

  • nevermind, after reading bladder broth over again I get the meaning

  • Superintendents make way to much money and there way to many on the Island. Why doesn’t the state combine the many into a few to save taxpayers money?

  • The economy is still in the dumps, taxes are over the top and you want more money so the teacher unions can use it to defend inept teachers at the taxpayers cost. I don’t think so. Everyone should demand full accountability of expenses and leave the students out of it. They are the pawns in this game of “Budget Chess” and have been sacrificed for 40 years that I know of. It just sicken me. Shame on all of you folks. Excuse me, I have to go throw up now.

  • THERE IS NO MORE CONTINGENCY BUDGETS…THE DISTRICT HAS TO TAKE THE BUDGET FROM THE YEAR BEFORE.
    I WAS AT THIS MEETING AS EVERYONE SHOULD BE WHILE ALL THIS BUDGET STUFF IS BEING PRESENTED.HOWEVER SOME OF THE THINGS THEY MIGHT HAVE TO CUT FROM ARE
    REDUCTION OF COURSE OFFERINGS
    CLASS SIZE WOULD HAVE TO BE MADE LARGER
    CUTS IN CO-CURRICULAR
    SPORT TEAMS HIGH SCHOOL AND MIDDLE SCHOOL
    STAFF
    CONSOLIDATE BUS STOPS ..LONGER BUS RIDES
    INCREASE OF FEES FOR COMMUNITY USE OF BUILDINGS.
    WHAT EVERYONE HAS TO REMEMBER IT IS NOT JUST HAPPENING IN RIVERHEAD…EVERY DISTRICT HAS TO GO THROUGH THIS.

  • As Mark Twain once said, “In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards.” God Bless the Governor for proposing a budget cut, next he needs to reduce Superintendent salaries, $300,000 to $500,000 per year for what??

  • Laurie,

    The cuts to some student services are unfortunate, but not tragic.

    Besides, a little pain now might get parents on board to say “NO!” to the teachers union during the next round of negotiations when they realize that 90% of budget increases go straight into teachers pockets at a time when their children have to go with less!!!!

    These teachers and administrators HAVE NO WHERE TO GO. It’s time for the taxpayers to use some leverage the way the unions have been bashing us for years.

    Yes, you get to keep your $150,000 salaray but there will be NO raises for the next contract term. Don’t like it? Goodbye.

    We have the upper hand and its time to use it.

  • Laurie,

    The cuts to some student services are unfortunate, but not tragic.

    Besides, a little pain now might get parents on board to say “NO!” to the teachers union during the next round of negotiations when they realize that 90% of budget increases go straight into teachers pockets at a time when their children have to go with less!!!!

    These teachers and administrators HAVE NO WHERE TO GO. It’s time for the taxpayers to use some leverage the way the unions have been bashing us for years.

    Yes, you get to keep your $150,000 salaray but there will be NO raises for the next contract term. Don’t like it? Goodbye.

    We have the upper hand and its time to use it.

  • So tired of my family’s budget being at the mercy of the school district.

  • So tired of my family’s budget being at the mercy of the school district.

  • So tired of my family’s budget being at the mercy of the school district.

  • Start cutting back on salaries and benefits like everyone else in America is doing. Teachers and administrators have long been prima donnas and the time has come for that to end. Stop taxing the average homeowner to death who is struggling to make ends meet. Stop living large on the backs on us taxpayers and use the reserve fund..that is what it is there for. You knew this day was coming you should have been planning for it…..

  • The Riverhead School District has too many layers of administration. Let’s start there! At last count there were 25 members of the Riverhead Administrators Association. Hmm… how many schools? oh yeah, 7 schools.

    Or , how about NOT hiring other Districts’ deadwood thereby not adding them to the burgeoning TRS/ERS contributions??

    On the June 30, 2009 balance sheet undesignated fund monies were at $3.7 million – did we blow through that already?

    Long story short… this budget will never pass. We, the taxpayers have ahd to cut more and more … now it’s your turn.

  • It doesn’t matter that this is not just happening in Riverhead but all over. Our concern is Riverhead. I will vote NO. The TRS/ERS contributions will smother us, soon they will take up the lion’s share of the budget. What happen’s then?

    I hope every taxpayer gets behind Governor Cuomo’s planned tax cap (stop whining – he’s working on mandate relief, too) so we can put a stop to this madeness!

  • Mr. Obama wants ALL students to get a college education.
    Mr. Cuomo is cutting funds, which admittedly, he has to get from somewhere.

    Cuts in education = larger class sizes (research has proven that smaller class sizes have a significant positive impact on student achievement.)
    Cuts in education = cuts in sports, arts and ROTC (areas that colleges look to for full perspective of personal growth and experience.)
    Cuts in education = cuts in honors and AP classes that prepare students for higher education.

    What the President wants for our children’s future cannot be realized under the governor’s plan. They are at odds.

    All unions and organizations with pensions are under fire. But what happens when these scapegoats do not solve all the issues? It is not a magic bullet.

    Buckle up buttercup. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride. Even after all the positions and programs are cut from the budget. Then the public will be in an uproar that schools aren’t doing their jobs. This is a lose-lose scenario for everyone.

    (BTW – the charter school system is not affected under Cuomo’s plan. Charter schools will still be collecting our tax payer dollars which school districts are required to pay by law. Any profit made by these schools is returned to the sponsoring business entity. That’s our tax dollars going to ConEd as their profit. The school district is required to continue to pay these levies to them. In the past 20 years, charter schools have not proven to be any more effective than the public school system. Just sayin’….)

  • It is not economically feasible for all students to get a college education – regardless of the President’s wants. He is an expert at spending money that we don’t have!

    A study of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years. Not much is asked of students, either. Half did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.

    The findings are in a new book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” by sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia.

    The study, an unusually large-scale effort to track student learning over time, comes as the federal government, reformers and others argue that the U.S. must produce more college graduates to remain competitive globally. But if students aren’t learning much, that calls into question whether boosting graduation rates will provide that edge.

    #1 Americans now owe more than $875 billion on student loans, which is more than the total amount that Americans owe on their credit cards.

    #2 Since 1982, the cost of medical care in the United States has gone up over 200%, which is horrific, but that is nothing compared to the cost of college tuition which has gone up by more than 400%.

    #3 The typical U.S. college student spends less than 30 hours a week on academics.

    #4 The unemployment rate for college graduates under the age of 25 is over 9 percent.

    #5 There are about two million recent college graduates that are currently unemployed.

    #6 Approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loans.

    #7 In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

    #8 The Project on Student Debt estimates that 206,000 Americans graduated from college with more than $40,000 in student loan debt during 2008.

    #9 In the United States today, 24.5 percent of all retail salespersons have a college degree.

    #10 Total student loan debt in the United States is now increasing at a rate of approximately $2,853.88 per second.

    #11 There are 365,000 cashiers in the United States today that have college degrees.

    #12 Starting salaries for college graduates across the United States are down in 2010.

    #13 In 1992, there were 5.1 million “underemployed” college graduates in the United States. In 2008, there were 17 million “underemployed” college graduates in the United States.

    #14 In the United States today, over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees.

    #15 Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of the full-time students who began college in 2001 received a bachelor’s degree within four years.

    #16 According to a recent survey by Twentysomething Inc., a staggering 85 percent of college seniors planned to move back home after graduation last May.

    Reprinted with permission from End of the American Dream.

    Yeah, keep pushing that college agenda… it’ll end well…

  • You are not going to make superintendents decrease their salary. Some pressure, they may do a pay freeze. Most of the unions in other districts are already at a pay freeze. The pensions can not be changed to easily and not in time for this budget so other options need to be put on the plate. Schools are here for education first so sports, activities, and late buses go first. Booster clubs can take over and if a team can raise money they can play BUT if all the districts are cutting teams WHO will they play against???

  • Get ready for house values in Riverhead to drop.

  • And assistant superintendant salaries of 150,000?

  • Yes times are tough for everyone. But it is clear that having a college degree has benefit. Unemployment among college grads is much lower than high school grads ( i think 50 % lower)
    Thats said, much of the investment in college education is wasted on remedial education for kids who cruised thru high school and can’t even communicate , write or read …. kids who should be learning a trade.

  • Soundview UFSD for NE Brookhaven.

  • PLEASE DON’T GET ME WRONG …..I SEE NO PROBLEM WITH THESE CUTS.WE DON’T JUST HAVE A TEACHERS UNION…THEIR IS THE UNION FOR THE CUSTODIANS,CAFETERIA WORKERS…..TRANSPORTATION AND YES A ADMINISTRATORS UNION..THAT UNION COVERS THE PRINCIPAL AND I THINK THE DIRECTORS. OH YES AND I GUESS OUR SECURITY GUARDS ARE IN THERE SOME WHERE..
    THE ONE CUT THAT REALLY BOTHERS ME IS THE BUILDING MAINTENANCE .THE DISTRICT JUST PRESENTED A 124 ,MILLION DOLLAR BOND THAT WAS TURNED DOWN.THE REASON THE BOND HAS BEEN PUT UP WAS BECAUSE THIS DISTRICT HAS NOT MAINTAINED OUR BUILDINGS.FOR THE LAST 25 PLUS YEARS WITHOUT TELLING THE PUBLIC .OUR SCHOOL BOARDS HAVE REMOVED MONEY FROM MAINTENANCE IN ORDER TO KEEP THE BUDGETS LOW.NOW HERE WE HAVE ANOTHER COMMUNITY GROUP THE DISTRICT PUT TOGETHER TO GO OVER ALL THE NEEDS OF THE DISTRICT SO THEY CAN PRESENT ANOTHER BOND..I AM PART OF THAT COMMITTEE AND I’M NOT HAPPY.YOU WOULD BE AMAZED AT WHAT THESE COMMUNITY MEMBERS WANT..DO WE REALLY NEED A NEW WEIGHT ROOM?DO WE REALLY NEED RESOURCE ROOMS FOR MATH AND SCIENCE FOR THE TEACHERS.?NO WHAT WE NEED IS TO REPAIR OR REPLACE THE ROOFS THAT ARE OVER DUE AND SOME WINDOWS THAT ARE SINGLE PANED AND LEAK.
    I HAVE BEEN GOING TO THE SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS FOR OVER 11 YEARS ..I WAS AT ONE TIME THE HIGH SCHOOL PTO PRESIDENT.NOW THEY HAVE A TEACHER AS PRESIDENT..THE TEACHER IS A PARENT ,HOWEVER HOW IS SHE TO GO AGAINST HER PRINCIPAL ?I VIDEO TAPED THE SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS AND PUT THEM ON CHANNEL 22 UP UNTIL THIS PAST AUGUST.I FELL ILL AND WAS NO LONGER ABLE TO CARRY THE EQUIPMENT HOWEVER THE TAPING WILL COME BACK…I ASK PLEASE START COMING TO THE MEETINGS .THE COMMUNITY NEEDS TO QUESTION THINGS.THERE ARE ONLY A HAND FULL OF PEOPLE THAT COME AND ONLY 2 OR 3 THAT ASK QUESTIONS..I CAN’T THINK OF EVERY THING AND NEITHER CAN THE OTHERS..PLEASE COME AND VOICE YOUR OPINION..WE NEED THE COMMUNITY TO COME TOGETHER ON THIS.

    LAURIE

  • The school boards and politicians are unable to manage a budget so the teachers have to pay back their contracted salaries?!? How is that fair? Teachers are taxpayers too, and a majority of them do not make six figures. If you don’t want to pay teachers what they are worth, then reduce the credentials needed for the job, ie. bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, NYS teaching license, continuing education, etc. Then who will be teaching our children? The teachers shouldn’t be the only ones who make up for the budget deficit, especially when the superintendents and assistant superintendents have given themselves raises year after year…where is the outrage against this? Why do we need so many assistant superintendents? Assistant Superintendent for Business? for Curriculum? for Buildings? Why are they not held to the fire with as much animosity as the teachers? We could save 3 teachers for every superintendent. And if you think your taxes will go down if teachers are laid off, you are sadly mistaken. You will be paying more for MUCH less. Superintendents don’t teach; teachers do. Don’t cut off your hands to spite your faces. Massive teacher layoffs will not solve the problem nor lower your taxes.

  • I HOLD THEM ALL TO THE FIRE.RIVERHEAD HAS WAY TO MANY ASST..ASST PRINCIPALS IN THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS .WE HAVE DIRECTORS FOR EVERY SUBJECT K-12.I BELIEVE THE PRINCIPALS HAD SO MUCH WORK TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM THAT THEIR JOB IS JUST IN NAME.TEACHERS?YES TEACHERS ARE NOT ALL PAID THE BIG BUCKS.HOWEVER TENURE HELPS KEEP THE CHUMPS IN WITH BIG SALARIES.STAY AFTER SCHOOL YOU GET PAID..LUNCH IS PAID…PREP TIME IS PAID…..DO A CLUB YOU GET PAID ..FILL IN TO COVER A CLASS AFTER 3 TIMES RIVERHEAD PAYS $150 ..YOU WANT TO COACH OR BE A TIMER YOU GET PAID…THERE ARE TEACHERS IN THIS DISTRICT THAT MAKE MORE THAN SOME OF OUR DIRECTORS AND ASST PRINCIPALS …..TENURE IS WHAT NEEDS TO BE TAKEN AWAY..I BELIEVE A TEACHER IF TRULY WANTS TO TECH WILL DO WHAT EVER IT TAKES TO TEACH THE CHILDREN WITHOUT A MONETARY AWARD THE AWARD SHOULD BE THE CHILD THAT STRUGGLES AND YOU CAN THEM THROUGH IT.
    SUPERINTENDENTS DO NOT GIVE THEMSELVES RAISES THE SCHOOL BOARD DOES..THE SCHOOL BOARD VOTES YES OR NO ON ALL CONTRACTS NOT THE SUPERINTENDENT…THIS IS WHERE IN MAY..WE GET A CHANCE TO RID THE RIVERHEAD SCHOOL BOARD OF THE YES MEN..AND THAT IS ALL THREE THAT IS UP THIS YEAR…

  • Agree admin first.
    But teachers point at administrators, administrators point at teachers. The point is … both live in the artificial world of union protection, where commercial principles of supply and demand , pay for performance dont apply. School boards are supposed to apply checks and balances to make up for the lack of commercial discipline but dont have the backbone. In the commercial world, a cerain amount of turnover is welcome, encouraged.. or forced Not so in the education world. School boards have to do their job, or voters will do it for them. Look at how many budgets failed in NJ last year. This will happen in NY this year.

  • The system is broken and the People better wise up to what is happening here. Over 60% of the property taxes are for school taxes alone. We need a complete over-haul of how schools are paid for. The Pension system has to be reformed and Superintendent salaries have to be capped.

    This has been coming for the past 20 years !! There is no more money left, the taxpayers are broke
    and it’s time to stop kicking the can down the Road. !!!! Wake up America !!

  • That’s how you address a 7th grader? You should be ashamed of yourself. A 4% increase will not amount to much for you, but the cuts will hurt these kids for a lifetime. You were given a chance–give them one.

  • Well said.

  • New York State is one of only a few that REQUIRES a Masters Degree in order to obtain a teaching licence. How much did yours cost you? Are you still paying it off? What’s that?? You dont have one? Didn’t think so. Being a teacher is the LOWEST paid job where a Masters degree is required…LOOK IT UP! Teachers spend 7 hours a day with YOUR children. How much time do you spend with them? Don’t count the time they are playing video games or watching t.v. or sleeping.

  • Please stop it. The Teachers Unions have destroyed the quality of life here on LI.
    Please take a hard look at reality and stop with the CHILDREN BS.

    I have had enough .!!!!

  • the 3 grand you pay in school tax a year is equal to the 3 grand you spend on cigarrettes! Get your priorities straight!

  • Have they?? I didn’t notice… I was too busy eating caviar and driving around the Hamptons in my Bentley. Next year we pick on the cops & firemen? This complaining is cyclical and you’re too ignorant to realize it. Why don’t you worry about the Doctors who charge $300 an office visit only to have you follow up for another 2 weeks later. Or the Insurance companies who don’t care if you’re dying of cancer, they just want their next billion. BLAME teachers…It’s easy to do. “Teacher’s Unions ruined the quality of life on Long Island” …and what have YOU done to improve it? NOTHING!!! because it’s easier for you to hide behind a blog than actually do something besides complain!

  • JJ, the sense of Entitlement has killed the American Dream.
    Since 68% of my tax bill is for School Taxes and not doctors bill, I blame the teachers Unions.

  • I do not have a Mercedes. I drive a 1999 Jeep and my husband drives a 2000 Jeep. We do not own house and we live paycheck to paycheck.

  • $15 a day to educate your kids (no matter how many you have). Not a bad deal if you do the math… have you checked babysitter prices? You can’t get one for less than $5 an hour per kid…OR are you one of those whos kids are grown an feel you no longer have to pay school tax?? Someone paid for them and complained about it.

  • Dear JJ- There are many people with DOCTORATE degrees who earn QUITE a bit less than teachers. Yes, we’re still paying off our education loans too and I guarantee you, those loans are DOUBLE what a teacher takes out for a Master’s. A Master’s is only 2 years beyond a Bachelor’s. Quit your bitchin’ and TAKE A FREEZE in pay! You’re making WAY too much money and have WAY too many days off for holidays, vacations and ALSO the entire SUMMER!

  • Dear JJ- There are many people with DOCTORATE degrees who earn QUITE a bit less than teachers. Yes, we’re still paying off our education loans too and I guarantee you, those loans are DOUBLE what a teacher takes out for a Master’s. A Master’s is only 2 years beyond a Bachelor’s. Quit your bitchin’ and TAKE A FREEZE in pay! You’re making WAY too much money and have WAY too many days off for holidays, vacations and ALSO the entire SUMMER!