We all live on a peninsula called Great Neck. There are 40,000 of us here and while we are all Americans, we are all pretty different. We also have the top school district in NY state and are in the top ten nationwide. That’s not bad! According to Niche.com Great Neck Public Schools get an A+ rating. We win 2017 Best School Districts in New York (#1 of 670), 2017 Districts with the Best Teachers in New York (#1 of 574), 2017 Best Places to Teach in New York (#1 of 553)
So, what’s all the fuss about bonds and budgets all about?
The budget lays out the financial plan for the coming year. It is an estimate of how much needs to be collected from us, the taxpayers, to run the school district. That budget has to be voted on by the community every year before it can be approved. The next budget vote is on May 16th and it is really important. If the community does not pass the budget then we have to make cuts to things like AP and Honors Courses, Art and Music Programs, Early Morning Drop-off and Enrichment Programs, Special Education Services, Small Class Sizes, Teachers on all levels, Ongoing Capital Improvements, After-school Clubs and Activities, Science and Technology Labs to support STEM, Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Extracurricular Athletic Teams. None of which we would like to see happen. Perhaps you are wondering if there is anything new or different about this budget? Is it going up a lot? The answer to these questions is NO. The budget is only 1.26% higher than last year’s budget, which is within the Tax Cap, and it is not calling for anything out of the ordinary for a GN School District budget. In short, the budget should be passed.
So, what’s the bond all about?
Our school buildings are getting older – some of them are nearly 100 years old! Just like with your home, the patch repairs are no longer sufficient. Engineers and architects have inspected the 18 buildings owned by the District over the past 5 years and have put together a list of the critical repairs that have to be made to ensure that the buildings are waterproofed, safe and updated to today’s standards. At the same time, the parents, teachers and students identified a number of key improvements that need to be made to bring the schools into the 21st century. If the bond is passed, the District will then seek proposals from contractors to complete the work. It will take 16-18 months for architectural plans, NY State review and a spec book to be created before contactors can bid on the projects for winners to be selected. The community will be notified in the newspapers. The money will only be drawn from the bond holder on an as needed basis, in chunks, to cover each phase of the renovation work.
The question is how to pay for it. Cash out of savings, or take out some sort of loan? Federal law prohibits all school districts from holding more than 4% of its annual budget in reserves, so it is nearly impossible to complete major renovation projects from the District’s operating budget. Most school districts borrow money through a bond or a long term “I owe you” to pay for improvement projects. It works like a mortgage and ask tax payers for a Bond Levy, or an increase in property taxes. The increased amount of taxes pays back the bond holders and the interest on the loan – it is self-amortizing so there is no balloon payment at the end of the term. The bond was originally proposed at $86m back in February and following its defeat, it has been reduced to $68.4m. You can click here to figure out how much this new borrowing will cost you. On average, it is around $150-$250 per year. If you live in a more expensive home, it will be more expensive, but that is a function of your home’s assessment.
So why is this vote and election creating so much noise in the community?
We need the 2017-18 budget and the proposed bond to pass. As explained above, both proposals are fair and reasonable for our community, but there are a number of voters who would like to push back on the passing of these proposals to send a message that our taxation is too high and getting higher every year. Unfortunately, this stance will lead to many more ripple effects. But we all live here. We are neighbors, friends and our children are classmates and playmates. We need to support one another as a community. The public-school parents should appreciate the financial support coming from the empty nesters, seniors and private school families. Without their support our district would not be as strong as it is. The private school families should appreciate the busing to and from school, school text books, school nurses, technology financing and special education support services. Without the District’s support, the cost of private school education would be higher.
I hope that you will consider supporting my candidacy for one of the Trustee seats. I am running against Jeff Shi, who is also pro-budget and bond, but I feel that I am more qualified to build the bridges needed throughout this community. If elected, I will personally visit with each of the local community groups, synagogues, churches and associations to better understand their needs and relationship with the GNPS. We cannot give everyone what they want but we can at least listen and share ideas. I want to encourage everyone involved in this election to be educated and informed. But most of all, be respectful and kind to one another.
Education is the passport to the future,
for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.