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Letter: Proposed School Taxes Hike Not Acceptable

Robert from Port Jeff Station says that spending more on schools and raising taxes is not helping kids in Port Jefferson Station

The proposed school levy increase of 7.3 percent is a disgrace. To think that during a time of such economic strain on the average household, the administration and teachers union, have the guts to try and raise taxes by approximately 10 percent. For me and many people this represents a near $800 per year increase in property taxes.

Senior Citizens in our town have not seen an increase in their Social Security for over two years. Many people in the private sector have had stagnant or diminishing wages as a result of the economic recession. Many have lost their jobs. Foreclosures are up in Port Jefferson Station vs. 2007. Can these people afford a ~10 percent increase in taxes? Absolutely not. Are we going to take food out of the mouths of seniors and the unemployed? Life saving medicines away from them too?

There are people in PJS that want you to believe that voting “yes” to the proposed budget increase is somehow, “for the kids”. This of course is a straw man argument because by opposing the increase, I am somehow against kids? Of course not, instead I am for sanity. If increasing taxes somehow increased results, I would have a no argument. But that is simply not true. In fact many districts in New York State perform better than Comsewogue while spending less per student.

The truth is that it’s not about the kids and it hasn’t been for decades. The public school system in New York State has attained a 75 percent increase in their budgets over the past decade, when inflation was only 35 percent. Are the kids any better off? No. In fact they are worse off. Can these same kids afford to start a life in Port Jefferson Station? Can they afford a home in the area? Can they afford to start a business? No. No. No.

In fact 65 percent of Long Islanders under 18- 35 plan to leave Long Island during the next 5 years. What good is this so called “great education” if the children cannot come back and contribute to the local economy? The fact is that the only people who benefit from this tax increase are the teachers, the administration and the unions.

While most of us in the private sector have 401Ks, and contribute 60  to 70 percent to these retirement plans, teachers get taken care of to the grave with their outrageous pensions while contributing only 5 percent annually. While most of us in the private sector spend 25 percent on our family’s healthcare, teachers spend 10 percent. Administrators? Don’t get me started.

We need to do what our New Jersey brothers have done. We need to speak loudly with one voice that the status quo is not good enough. We need to stand together and oppose this oppressive taxation and demand pension and benefit reform now!

That is the only way our kids will be able to live their lives on Long Island or in Port Jefferson Station. Because making it harder for our kids to begin their lives here in Port Jefferson Station is not in their best interest.

Robert from Port Jefferson Station

Chris May 12, 2011 at 12:58 PM
I notice no mention was made of the payback that the teachers made in this district....a bit one sided. What exactly do you mean with "our New Jersey brothers?" I think you seem to be misguided in your thinking that the teachers, administrators and blanket statement "unions" also are our neighbors and aren't dropped in to make a salary and leave. Teachers, administrators etc, must also pay their taxes and mortgages and rising food and gas bills.
Marie Martin May 12, 2011 at 01:54 PM
Is the education of kids not worth 800 $ a year more to you? I don't know about you but for me, education is far more a worthy expense than some iPhone, flat TV or electronic gimmick that you could buy for 800$. If for 800$ you can buy a better future for your kids, then I think it is worth every penny. As it is, teachers often make less money than police officers and do not have better pension benefits etc... Do you think this is fair ? As for the other problems you put on the table, well they are not going to get better because you protest an 800$ increase of school taxes. They will only get better if you take it upon yourself to address the problems with the proper authorities, those that decide on Social Security cuts etc, i.e your politicians, not the teachers who are trying to educate the children the best they can. By the way, I am not a teacher, just a parent who thinks that education is far more important than consumption, sales and profit. I do care about my children's education not so they can make more money than me, but simply because I want them to be able to think about alternatives, particularly to a discourse that has grown old from the business world. If you want a pension, then ask your employer. If your employer is yourself, then what is your contribution to this world. Selling goods that others have produced ? Is this a constructive enterprise ? Perhaps a better education could make you think of alternatives.
joe May 12, 2011 at 02:34 PM
The fact of the matter 75% of the school budget goes to salaries and benefits. This year the board is cutting back on programs in order to be able to pay the teachers benefits and salaries. The teachers need to take a pay cut so more money can be put into the the school programs, to benefit the kids.
greencap May 12, 2011 at 03:03 PM
@marie You know that is always the argument. "$800 is like getting a starbucks coffee 3 times a week, surely education is worth more!" There are a lot of worthwhile causes in the world, and you can only spend so much. How do you know that someone was not going to donate that $800 to cancer research? Surely you must think cancer research is important! Nobody denies education is important. And if you look at the schools around here, they are amongst the best funded in the world. The problem is though that people cannot afford it. Taxes are beginning to rival mortgage payments, except they are forever! I am a product of Comsewogue HS, and teachers I once had are now "deans" getting paid $130k + a year. Funny when I was there we did not need "deans" We had a principal and 2 assistant principals and it was fine. Normally Comsewogue is very good with spending money but they really do need to tamper it down a bit here. They should not have opened a fourth elementary school either during the boom times. We all know education is important, but when you have children in school and vote for endless increases it is a bit selfish. There are young people around here that want to start families, but $8-10k+ taxes are killing them. There are seniors around that are being forced out due to taxes too. In an ideal world one would have unlimited money to put to worth causes, but this is not ideal and we need to balance costs.
Chris May 12, 2011 at 03:21 PM
Joe, I thought the teacher's not only took a cut, but each teacher gave $4,500 back to help support the finances of the community. I'm a community member and I was shocked and thankful that they did so. This prevented very large class sizes, due to laying off many teachers, and the changing of the schools from k-5 schools to k-2.
matt May 12, 2011 at 03:50 PM
The reasons you give for people leaving Long Island have nothing to do with your school tax rate or budgets. The reality, the current system of funding education is broken. It relies to heavily on property tax. However, what needs to be discussed in the public forum is how are politicians are going to restructure this system. You're entire premise is really a "Straw Man" because you offer no viable solution. Taking away from workers is not the answer. Systematic financial reform based upon restructuring of current state revenue streams is what we need to demand if we want change. Reducing workers' abilities to make money and to have security in the future will not improve the schools or put more money in anyone's pocket.
matt May 12, 2011 at 03:52 PM
The reasons you give for people leaving Long Island have nothing to do with your school tax rate or budgets. The reality: the current system of funding education is broken. It relies too heavily on property tax. However, what needs to be discussed in the public forum is how politicians are going to restructure this system. With all due respect, You're entire premise is really a "Straw Man" because you offer no viable and sustainable solution. Taking away from workers is not the answer. Systematic financial reform based upon restructuring of current state revenue streams is what we need to demand if we want real and sustainable change. Reducing workers' abilities to make money and to have security in the future will not improve the schools or put more money in anyone's pocket.
Chris May 12, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Everybody pays someones salary, you just don't get the ability to vote on increases on gas prices, milk, or utilites. They need to re-configure how education is paid for, every year the state takes away aid and then leaves more burden on the taxpayer, who then feel validated to blame the teacher. It creates a terrible dynamic and ultimately does impact everything, excessing of good teachers, kids education, sports programs, housing values and the overall climate among community member. Hundreds to thousands of teachers are being let go this year in NY, they will ultimately leave our towns too.
Fred May 12, 2011 at 06:00 PM
All good points, but lets remember, I can't ask my boss to increase my salary 7.3% because my cost of living has gone up. Yes, the teachers aren't the problem its Albany but still with high unemployment and so many families struggling to pay their mortgage its hard to swallow such a increase. Its not a question of if teachers/admin are worth it, of course they are. But we simply don't have it to give. Education is a priority, but I'm not going to default on my house because of it. BTW, has anyone else noticed the forest of for sale signs around and the plummeting home prices? Theres something seriously wrong when you can get a home for $200k, but pay 10k+ in taxes on it.
matt May 12, 2011 at 10:54 PM
well said
Rob May 13, 2011 at 01:25 AM
Teachers gave back 4500 with a promise that no layoffs will happen next year. What do you think will happen to state aid next year, will it go up? No. So next years budget is going to be even worse. Teachers gave back 4500, which is nothing. Instead of the money going to class sizes, it should go back to the taxpayer. You people act like throwing more money toward education somehow improves education. It doesnt. In fact education results, ie test scores, have been stagnant in this country for nearly 50 years. Despite spending significantly more today than we did 50 years ago. The only solution is to have real, pension and benefit reform for public employees now in NYS. I would propose abolishing the outdated Pension system and replacing it with a defined benefit program. Rather than the taxpayer taking care of retired public employees until death, a novel idea would be to let those people take care of themselves. Just like the taxpayers do. Oh and by the way, if you make your money as a public employee, you are not a taxpayer. Thats right, just becuase you give back some of your compensation in taxes every year, doesnt change the fact that you are a net taker. You take money out of the system only, ie. you pay no tax.
Nick Nola May 13, 2011 at 01:26 AM
The whole problem is about work for 9 months, we pay you for 12. Work for 20 years we pay you for 40-50. There is no other problem. How come Georgia, North and South Carolina don't have this problem. You know why, they like governor christie say to teachers... " you don't like your job, then quit. Tenure is BS too . Why are we stuck with etchers that are bad and make too much money.... Tenure. Anyone that says its for the kids is on drugs. We cant pay for the teachers we need, because we are paying for the ones that retired
Nick Nola May 13, 2011 at 01:27 AM
Long Islad is a place where government workers are taxed to death to pay for their own salaries. Companies don't exist here, and if they do, they are Moving Out
Nick Nola May 13, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Nathan Hale said " I only regret that I have one vote to place against the school budget"
Rob May 13, 2011 at 01:56 AM
Taxpayers are not represented during the teachers contract negotiations. The teachers union, get candidates elected by donating vast sums of money to their campaigns, then those same elected officials are charged with the negotiation. In essence this is what's wrong with public schools.
Crissy May 13, 2011 at 02:25 AM
Sure it is easy to spend hours on the internet and look up numbers and sit there and say "BAD, GREEDY TEACHERS!". How about you walk a few months in the shoes of a teacher. One that gets to work an hour early to plan, works through their lunch, then spends another hour or two once they get home to plan and grade papers for the next day. Not to mention having to deal with the stress of having to control, console, mentor, discipline, and mediate for the 25+ kids all by ourselves plus still teach, then re-teach two or three times the same skill because some poor child doesn't understand or just doesn't care because they are too over worked, then you can come to me and say I don't deserve my salary. Do I agree that some teachers and MANY administrators are in this for the money, but the truth is that the majority of the teachers are in it for the right reason because we care. I know I certainly do not do it for the money. I am a teacher and can barely pay my bills. I too can not afford the increase in taxes, but DO NOT SAY I DONT NOT DESERVE MY SALARY. Also I am sick of people who are NOT in the teaching field saying that if a teacher has tenure they have a job for life. Let me tell you something, We Don't! If an administrator wants a teacher out, trust me they know how to do it I have seen it happen in my school at least 3 times. Does something have to give, yes, but the answer is not just to cut teacher salaries. New York & America needs to have some respect for us teachers!!
Chris May 13, 2011 at 03:00 AM
Is $4,500 nothing to you? It certainly isn't to my family. I guess they should just take it back then, Oh but right that wouldn't make anybody happy either...problem is you give, you lose, you don't give you lose..... It's poor attitudes like yours that give out misinformation as well. Public employees are of course taxpayers, what a completely idiotic statement. It's also not compensation in the way you are implying, it is a salary for hard work. Your statement, (Rather than the taxpayer taking care of retired public employees until death, a novel idea would be to let those people take care of themselves.) your snarky attitude is that of oh the evil retired public employee should take care of themselves till death....it sounds like your so angry you are comparing a kindergarten teacher to a serial killer. Teachers worked HARD for 30+ years. if they didn't have there fantabulous pensions and benefits, how who they take care of themselves. OHHH I guess they wouldn't they would need social services to get involved and welfare and all those taxpayer programs. That would solve everything. Also where is your thesis or doctorate on test scores in the last 50 years, I would be interested in reading it.
Fred May 13, 2011 at 04:40 PM
I suppose teachers are the only ones that work hard in this country, the rest of us working 50+ hours in the private sector are just not as important. Bottom line its not a contest of who works more, or who "deserves" what since I never knew anyone who said they were overpaid, rather what the citizens can realistically afford. This 7.3% increase in unacceptable. If there was no give backs, there's no way this would pass. The teachers were promised no lay offs which is understandable, but is anyone promising no tax increase next year if this passes? These school boards are made of teachers and PTA moms who blindly throw money at everyone in the name of "education" . One final thought, what does a comparable teacher make at a private/catholic school? From what I understand its a fraction of their public school comrades.
Phil E. May 15, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Here is a way for most school distircts, including Commesogue to save many thousands and redirect those savings to educate our students and for relief to our own taxpayers. Since the local drug epidemic plays an expensive role in suspensions, home tutoring, summer school, counseling, and all the costs that go with it, maybe its time to step up to the plate and do what need to be done.

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