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OPINION: Insist On A Budget That Supports Needs of All Students

Voters have the right to vote on a school budget that maintains services, or even adds back last year’s cuts, the authors say.

Dear Families of Port Washington,

The Port Washington Schools are in severe danger.  We have heard that, in keeping with the New York State Tax Cap, the Board of Education plans to approve a budget that will increase the school budget by only 1.88 percent. This meager amount will result in severe cuts to our schools.  Once again Port is faced with sacrificing the education of our children unless we insist on a budget that supports the needs of all students.

Under the state tax cap law, the Board of Education is not obligated to stick to 1.88 percent. However, it looks like they plan to do so unless we, the citizens of Port Washington, tell them to do otherwise. We have the right to vote on a school budget that maintains services, or even adds back last year’s cuts. However, the only way the BOE will agree to put forth a budget that exceeds this increase is if they are confident a super-majority of 60 percent will approve the budget. They have asked to hear from the Port community on this important issue.  (Last year, 62 percent of voters approved a budget that included a 2.96 percent tax increase.)  In a democracy such as ours, we believe that it is the responsibility of the Board of Education to once again let the voters decide.

The devastating cuts necessitated by the 1.88 percent budget cap will include but are not limited to:

  • 4 elementary sections
  • 2 middle school teachers
  • 4 high school teachers
  • 1 elementary art teacher
  • 20 sports teams
  • 65 club advisors from Weber and Schreiber
  • PEP program
  • Over $600,000 in school supplies


These significant budget reductions are on top of last year’s cuts in elementary library programs and guidance counselors along with increases in class size throughout the district. In short, the school district is on a path that will lead to a major decrease in the quality of our schools.

Therefore, it is imperative that EVERYONE willing to support a budget over 1.88 percent email the board at BOE@portnet.k12.ny.us or write the BOE directly at 100 Campus Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050.  All that you need to say in the email or letter is that you want the Board of Education to put up to vote a budget that includes no cuts in teacher, teams or clubs and that you are willing to have your school taxes increase by more than 1.88 percent.

It is also crucial that parents attend one of the next Board of Education meetings on Tuesday, Feb. 28 and Tuesday March 6 at 8 p.m. at the Auditorium. Please do your best to come and express your support for our schools. There’s power in numbers.

We must come together and be heard if we want to maintain the quality education children receive throughout Port Washington Schools. It not only benefits them, it also greatly serves our community at large. As we all know, the quality of the local education system directly correlates to the values of our homes.  

We hope you will share in our mission to help our kids THRIVE and not just survive!  

Sincerely,

Dawn Berkowitz-Ader, Bill Keller, Rina Smith and Lynn Steinberg

The opinions in this post are soley those of the authors, who are residents of Port Washington. 

Nassau Taxpayer February 28, 2012 at 05:19 PM
...not to mention reduction in NYS aid.
Stacey Gould February 28, 2012 at 05:26 PM
I disagree. I don't think that anyone is trying to "exact revenge" on the teachers, but at a time when so many of us who are not protected by union contracts are faced with salary cuts, pay freezes and decreases in our benefits, it's hard to understand why teachers are not asked to bear some of the burden as well. Yes, in an ideal world I'd like to exact revenge on the people who put our economy in this position, but in the real world in which I live it's hard for me to understand why so many go another year paying more for benefits or receiving less, but the teachers seem sacrosanct. And to be clear, I actually don't have any problem with teachers on Long Island making good money - I think the fact that teachers here make good money is a huge part of the reason our schools are good. What I take real issue with is (1) guaranteed raises every year (2) the fact that teachers only have to pay for their benefits packages for the first ten years and (3) the exorbitant pensions received by older/retired teachers. Number 3 is a huge part of the problem. They retire in their early 60s, in some cases make more than they did when they were working (because they don't have to pay NYS tax on pension benefits), and oftentimes continue to work as tutors making in excess of $100 an hour. And meanwhile, we're being told that everything needs to be cut, we still pay a lot in taxes and the teachers in the classroom with our children are being told they have to do less with more.
Stacey Gould February 28, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Do more with less obviously...
Nassau Taxpayer February 28, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Your Mr. "Common Sense Plan" Sussman cost your district HOW MUCH with his displays of arrogance? And not only the roof bond: http://www.antonnews.com/portwashingtonnews/2000/10/20/news/
Port Proud February 28, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Like it's rocket science to figure out how long a 30 year roof will last. It has been over 10 years since the Board proclaimed we needed new roofs. How much money have they but away for this Capital Expense? Oh wait - let's wait until they cave in, then the taxpayers will have to pass a bond. Please sir, may I have another?
Jennifer Wilson-Pines February 28, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Dear Mr Taxpayer - oh wait - that's me too. Since you have a superior grasp of the figures, why don't you display them???? Along with your real name. Also, not sure why Mr Sussman is "mine" and more than he is "yours." Yep I know perfectly well that there is no free lunch and I'm willing to pay for my government services, however I object to overpaying. Being a BOE member is IMHO rather like paying to get to stick your face in a blender, but if you insist on doing it, then do it properly.
Ben February 28, 2012 at 07:33 PM
@ Stacy Gould: Homes in PW have not held value they are down more than 30% and continue to drop what was 1.2 million is now listed at $850 and still not moving; The economically depressed community you grew up in where you "Didint have have good teachers" and you became an Estate Planner? How did that happen? FYI you have done better than many Schrieber High School graduates a number of my classmates who were taught by our wonderful teachers have become nothing. @ The Truth; You said it the Paraprofessionals are what make the cost of our schools so high employees with full benefits are costly. If ALL of these useless employees were eliminated we can pay the teachers what they want and have no problems with taxes the paraprofessionals must go. And this community has hired Dr. Gordon we were told that he is a gift to education and a gift to all humanity by the same people who TELL US that our schools are OUTSTANDING Dr. Gordon is our leader and thats the way it is. Our schools are good they are NOT excellent, they NOT outstanding, they are good we have good schools nothing more nothing less. Many of our adminstrators and educators are legends in their own minds.
Stacey Gould February 28, 2012 at 07:47 PM
I'll tell you exactly how it happened. I grew up in a rural area where the closest grocery store was 7 miles away. Neither of my parents attended college, and my mother didn't even graduate from a 4 year high school. I attended a private school on full scholarship and then borrowed every penny of what it cost to attend college and law school, and then I spent five years working myself to death in a law firm to pay it off. I became an estate planner because it is one of the few areas of the law that affords a female attorney who is also a mother a decent quality of life. Next question??
Stacey Gould February 28, 2012 at 07:51 PM
I forgot the part about how I have worked steadily since I was 13. Not trying to paint myself as some working class hero, but the tone of your question called for an honest answer. This is a wonderful place to live, and if you were lucky enough to grow up here you should be thankful.
Bring Awareness NOW! February 29, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Hello all. I wanted to inform everyone that Suerpintendent Geoffrey N. Gordon had applied in August, 2011 for the Broward County, FL, Superintendent of Schools position. Here is the link: http://www.browardschools.com/superintendent/resumes/Gordon%20Resume.pdf (It was the second link found by typing "Geoffrey N. Gordon" into google)
Bring Awareness NOW! February 29, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Just so everyone knows... there were 47 applicants for this position. Salary: $275,000/year, substantially less then what he make here in Port Washington. Let's compare apples to apples. Student Size: -Port Washington: Under 5,000 -Broward County: 257,000 students - 6th largest district in nation ( http://www.browardschools.com/about/overview.htm) Salary -Port Washington: $320,000 -Broward County: $275,000 Education of present superintendents: -Port Washington: University of Virginia / Rutgers (http://www.antonnews.com/portwashingtonnews/2002/07/19/news/super.html) -Broward County: Harvard University (http://www.browardschools.com/superintendent/)
Bring Awareness NOW! February 29, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Please look at the resume. I listed the link above. In it, we find how Dr. Gordon thinks of himself. Please read some of the things outlines, and decide for yourself....
Bring Awareness NOW! February 29, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Let's compare more... Management of School Budget: -Port Washington: Superintendent - "managed" - 100 million dollar budget -Broward: Superintendent manages 3.5 billion dollar budget
Nassau Taxpayer February 29, 2012 at 01:10 PM
In fact, the BOE uses exactly those figures to demonstrate the per student/adjusted for mandates and reduced state aid austerity of their budgets. As for Sussman, it's sad that voters of that era (including those "drive-bys" and "fly ins" voting in multiple jurisdictions) were so easily duped by so-called "common sense". Never again.
Ben February 29, 2012 at 07:26 PM
@ Stacy you DO paint yourself as a working class hero! I am impressed by your acchomplishments you have worked hard and you should be proud. And you did all of this without the Port Washington School system which illustrates my point that we do not need this costly school system. Students who would like to achieve goals will achieve goal the way you have through hard work and student loan debt so lets stop with heafty budget increases and offer a school system that is affordable trust the homes will still sell our fast commute to NYC will keep our real estate moving.
Ben February 29, 2012 at 07:31 PM
@ Bring Awareness - thanks for the information about Dr. Gordon's application to the Broward County School System can anyone tell me did Dr. Gordon get the job?
Ben February 29, 2012 at 07:39 PM
@ Stacy Gould there is nothing wrong with the tone of my question you are hyper-sensitive. Port Washington like everything else in life is a "mixed-bag" and not "a wonderful place to live" for everyone. This community has strengths and weakness good points and bad points you know that. Ask a senior citizen paying school taxes here how they feel about our community see how fortunate they feel.
Bring Awareness NOW!!!!! February 29, 2012 at 08:51 PM
@ BEN - No, Dr. Geoffrey N. Gordon did not get the job. Why would he? His resume cannot compare to the Harvard-economics, previous superintendent of the 3rd largest district in the US, which is Chigago, etc. Dr. Geoffrey N. Gordon is living on a fantasy island that someone would be interested in him. We are the only fools that are drinking his cool-aid........ We need to pressure the board to fire Superintendent Geoffrey N. Gordon......................
Nassau Taxpayer February 29, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Since you feel so strongly about it, why not attend a BOE meeting and point that out to the Board? Last I knew, they offered an opportunity for public comment. Knock yourself out.
Doug Augenthaler March 01, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Once again, the calendar turns from Feb. into March and concern about the school budget crops up. The basis if the original comment appears to be that we have a 'today' issue, but not a 'tomorrow' issue, or a 'five years from now' issue. The truth is that we have a long term educational funding issue. The last few years have been negatively impacted by pensions costs and that is highly likely to continue. The truth is that we have placed educational costs on an unsustainable path, which is the crux of the reason for the Gov's tax cap. The tax cap is meant not to serve as some arbitrary limit, but as a motivation for local districts to address the sustainability of education. What the Gov. has not done (at least not yet) is to free the local districts from things like unfunded mandates and he has yet to level the playing field in union negotiations and tenure. That doesn't mean we can't start to fix this problem. If anyone should be screaming for this change, it is the parents of kids in elementary school. If we don't get off this unsustainable path, how do you think the High School is going to look when your kids get there? The answers don't lie in a 3% budget increase versus a 2% increase. That only delays the inevitable and the inevitable is likely to strike when your kids get into high school. We (and I mean all of us, students, parents, and taxpayers) will be much better off when we stop focusing on annual battles and address the fundamental problem.
Donna Rice March 01, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Doug - Please run for a seat on the School Board....we need you!!
Howard Simon March 01, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Mr. Augenthaler makes an excellent point regarding the need to pay attention to the underlying fundamental problems affecting the school budget and funding process. However, while the fundamental issues need to be addressed in the long-term, there also are matters which must be dealt with in the short-term. For example, imagine we were on a boat with a gash below the waterline, and were trying to make our way through seas with multiple submerged rocks. Now imagine we were sailing without the benefit of accurate charts or working sonar. Clearly, the chart and sonar problems are fundamental issues we would have to address if we hoped to survive in the long-term – but if we wanted to keep from sinking, we’d still need to fix the hole in the hull right now. For the purposes of our schools, the point is that while the systemic issues which are driving costs for all school districts higher undeniably need to be addressed, it is clear that we cannot expect fixes to those issues to arrive in time to plug the hole in this year’s budget, and that hole cannot be ignored. This is not and cannot be an either-or debate in which focusing only on the short-term or on the long-term problem is the answer. Rather, we must, to the best of our collective abilities, address both.
Richard Sussman May 15, 2012 at 10:52 AM
It seems Nassau Taxpayer refuses to identify himself probably because of his false statements. Our board has failed miserably to watch costs and expenses. The worse roof in our district is the new one at Weber where shingles are falling off. This roof is less than 10 years old? There is shoddy work throughout the district from the last $69 million bond. Our district approved and paid for the work and never asked questions. Now they want us to pay for it again. Why isn't the board holding those responsible to pay for it? Yes our teacher contract mandates the raises we must give, but who gave them the contract-our school board. Stop trying to blame the state for mandates, they are not as much as you would like us to believe. Why did our board not get millions of dollars in state aid on numerous projects? We had a $5 million surplus in the $69 million bond that disappeared- anybody want to know where? I would.Just for the record the "common sense plan" was not my plan as Nassau Taxpayer falsely states among his other falsehoods.
Nassau Taxpayer May 15, 2012 at 02:30 PM
WHOSE "Common Sense Plan"? WHOSE "false statements"? You decide. "Sussman and Zimmerman's Plan For the first time, Mr. Sussman and Mr. Zimmerman disclosed their own long-term facilities plan. ... Common Sense Plan for Around $30 Million ... Here's the Difference The BOE Plan ... Common Sense Plan $85,000,000 about $30,000,000 5300 Students ... 5940 students No POOL! ... includes POOL! " http://www.antonnews.com/portwashingtonnews/2000/01/14/news/ "Mr. Sussman's way, has always been to tell half truths and to make personal attacks in order to get his way. Such was the case during last year's debate over the proposed School Bond. Then in concert with Mr. Zimmerman (with whom he is now, not surprisingly at odds) he offered up his so-called "Common Sense Plan," his low cost alternative to the bond, which would provide exactly the same services as the proposed bond. I haven't seen hide nor hair of the "Common Sense Plan" from our "construction expert" since the bond went down to defeat in May. Could that be because as I wrote on these pages, back in the spring, Mr. Sussman just could not do what he said he could in the "Common Sense Plan", for the price he said he could do it for? It seems that the high school is still estimated to cost $20 million a far cry from the $7 million in the "Common Sense Plan." " http://www.antonnews.com/portwashingtonnews/2000/12/08/opinion/letter.html
Richard Sussman May 15, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Again Mr. Nassau Taxpayer refuses to state who he is and I strongly suspect he is a current member of the board trying to hide his own deficiencies by attacking others. The Port News is not the official record. Board votes and the video tapes of the meeting are. If you read the article you link to, the plan was presented by Mr. Zimmerman. I stated many times that there were many alternatives to the ridiculous plan put forth at that time. My opinion as one who is involved in public construction on a daily basis is that we could have accommodated the needs with about $30 million. Unfortunately other board members added many items not needed to the plan. Why did we need more parking at Guggenheim when the amount of students and staff was being reduced? Why did we move a wall at Weber out about 2 feet? and on and on. My record is clear on the board. I fought for accountability which our board refuses to do, just look at the workmanship they approved. I fought for our share of state aid where our board ignored it and just paid more. I could write a book with true examples but since Mr Nassau Taxpayer who won't identify himself insists on his rants I won't respond any further. Just suffice it to say at this point as Mr. Nassau Taxpayer criticizes me for stopping an architect from getting paid twice and limiting competition I am working with a chairperson of the NYS legislature to see it never happens again.
Nassau Taxpayer May 15, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Anton News reported -- all year long. If there had been errors, you presumably would have gone out of your way to correct the reporter and the record. Guess not. http://www.antonnews.com/portwashingtonnews/2000/01/14/news/ http://www.antonnews.com/portwashingtonnews/2000/12/08/opinion/letter.html
Doug Augenthaler May 15, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Enough already. This conversation adds exactly zero fixing the problems we are facing. The past is past. How about we concentrate on the future?
Richard Sussman May 15, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Exactly Doug which is why I said I won't respond to this unnamed person further though since I believe he is one of our school board members it is the problem in my opinion. A school board member should ask the right questions in seeking the truth and do what best for the district. He shows the opposite.
Richard Sussman May 15, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Port Proud's comment "Like it's rocket science to figure out how long a 30 year roof will last" is funny. We are talking about slate roofs. It's not rocket science to google it and see they should last a minimum of 150 years. Our buildings are not 150 years old.
Nassau Taxpayer May 16, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Mr. Sussman's present "opinion" is no better than his laughable and disingenuous "Common Sense Plan", or the legacy of his term as a BOE member, a record that continues to speak for itself, and "it's not rocket science" why: http://www.antonnews.com/portwashingtonnews/2001/05/18/news/ http://www.antonnews.com/portwashingtonnews/2004/05/14/news/candsnite.html

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