Tax cap will hurt public schools by Allan Gerstenlauer, Middle Island

Tax cap will hurt public schools

May 26, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, left, 

I am dismayed and deeply disappointed at the State Assembly's proposal for a property tax cap ["Deal on property tax cap 2%," News, May 25].

Last week, voters in the Longwood community passed a budget that reflected a 3.95 percent increase in the tax levy. This, despite dramatic cuts in programs; this, despite a reduction of nearly 100 staff members; and this, despite concessions from our employee bargaining units, all of which resulted in a 1.25 percent decrease in our spending plan for next year. The increase in the tax levy is directly related to the $7-million reduction in aid from New York State to Longwood's schools projected for 2011-12, and which is layered on diminishing support from the state over the past three years.

If the tax cap being proposed had been in place this year, the result could have been an additional $4 million in reductions to programs and staff. Under that scenario, I do not believe we would be able to provide the educational programs our community has come to expect and that our kids deserve. Certainly, they would not be the programs that would prepare our students for the economic recovery of our state and our nation, or propel our nation's position in the world. Nor would they be programs that would maintain the ranking of New York's public schools as second in the nation by Education Week's Quality Counts 2011 Report. No, we are not 34th, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would have you believe.

I understand the political pressure for a tax cap. I truly fear its impact on our schools. I also fear that a 60 percent supermajority vote needed to override the cap will disenfranchise our local community, which has been supportive of its schools for many years. As the debate moves forward, it is my hope that our elected officials will advocate for a solution that strikes a balance between what residents want and can afford for their schools, coupled with a comprehensive program of meaningful mandate relief, as well as the restoration of necessary state financial support for its schools.

Allan Gerstenlauer, Middle Island

Editor's note: The writer is the superintendent of the Longwood Central School District.

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