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Ginny Fields- 5th Dist & Mike Fitzpatrick 7th dist NY Assem
February 27, 2009 @ 12:00 am EST
This morning we had a slightly different format. The speakers gave us their take on the state of the schools and what a perverse effect taxes have had on our region. 5th Assembly representative Ginny Fields and 7th Assembly representative Mike Fitzpatrick gave us opening statements on school taxes and the reason for out of control costs. Presently Long Islanders are the second highest taxed citizens in the nation.
They pointed out to us that 70% of our property taxes are used for schools. That percentage has risen from about 40% back in the 70’s. The schools will tell you that the cost is high because the quality of education is high. At the same time Suffolk Community College and SUNY reports that 30% of new students need remedial reading. Obviously there is an inconsistency in these numbers.
The speakers were asked about the driving forces underlying the increases. The reasons are many. One of the reasons is that all of the education employees are still in Defined Benefit Plan pensions. The economic realities have caused private companies to abandon DBP pensions years ago. To satisfy the needs of these plans in economic bad times means considerably higher costs to the taxpayer, and as a result we can expect another whopping increase in school taxes next year, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick.
Another problem is fraud and waste. Let’s talk about waste first. The need to have as much administration in our schools as we do is not justified by any argument that the school administrators can give us. It was pointed out the Fire Island School district has 78 students and has a superintendent all its own. That superintendent gets paid $178,000 per year plus pension, plus health benefits, sick days, personal days and all of the other benefits usually awarded. The total cost of that person is probably $228,000. If you divide that number by the number of pupils (78). That comes out to over $2900 per student before you pay for a principal’s salary, teachers, building repairs, property insurance, heat, power, and all other costs.
One of the people in the audience had a copy of the Sayville teacher’s union contract. The contract reflected a 28% increase over the next four years. This is an unconscionable disregard for the taxpayers.
Another reason for out of control cost is lack of countervailing power. Unions and management agreements work best when the parties are of similar power. The question is; who is there to tell the unions no?
The school districts will tell you that the ludicrous number of districts (126) is needed to maintain control, but recent revelations by Newsday that uncovered numerous phony pensions demonstrated that school districts have no incentive to run a clean operation. Fraud simply does not matter as long as they can stick the taxpayer with the bill.
If you were in the audience this morning you know I covered only the most salient points. The real picture is worse.
## Ernie Fazio ##