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Senator Ken LaValle
May 15, 2009 @ 12:00 am EDT
The economic news from our speaker, State Senator Ken LaValle, was not particularly good. On the other hand, we knew that the economy is in stress. We asked the senator to talk about taxes and he did. The tax cap that was introduced under the last Albany administration resulted in property tax increases that ranged from between 2% and 3 ½ % instead of the 4,5.and 6% increases we saw in the past. This is good of course, but not good enough as the economy declines dramatically.
I posed a question based on a situation discovered by a LIMBA member. It was the case of the Fire Island school district comprised 78 children. The superintendent of that school district has a salary and benefit package of $228,000. That works out to approximately $3,000 per pupil, before you buy the first pencil. I asked the senator how we could tolerate that insanity. He shook his head in disbelief and admitted that was troubling.
Mr. LaValle thought that were easier fixes that did not require school consolidation, but rather services consolidation. That has been done to some small degree, and probably will expand. School consolidation, according to LaValle’s constituents would result in the loss of the local identity as far as teams and bands are concerned. To me this argument does not ring true. The teams and bands could continue to exist, but the multiple administrative beaurocracy would be trimmed down.
LaValle said school costs and other issues can be changed for the better by employing a process that was similar to the one used to create the Pine Barrens. That would be the process “Dispute Resolution.”
He then spoke about reduced revenues. Revenues are so reduced that the hospital at Stony Brook will receive about $50 million less this year. The effect will be reduced programs, and some services could be terminated. In addition to that loss there has been a loss of funds available for “Empire Zones.” These empire zones create businesses that would not otherwise survive, and gives them an opportunity to grow.
An important mission for the senator is to strengthen the institutions that Long Island is noted for, such as, SUNY Stony Brook, Brookhaven National Labs, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Presently there is an effort to tie these gold mines of intellectual activities into a cohesive unit, thus creating a technological juggernaut.
He reported to the LIMBA audience that the new Energy Center at Stony Brook will be named as a “Center of Excellence” These institutions have an economic impact that is enormous. He stated that impact was about $4.6 billion for Stony Brook. It becomes easy to see why education is so important to Long Island.