Too big a prize?

While I'm happy for the recent Long Island winners of the New York Lottery ["Winnings will help 'the people,' " News, Jan. 6], the amount of the prize highlights several things that are wrong with the lottery.

Figures from last fiscal year show the traditional lottery gave out twice as much money in prizes (59.1 percent of sales, $3.96 billion) as it returned to education (31.2 percent, $2.09 billion). By simply reversing these ratios, another $2 billion would be available for education. Is $2 billion something we can afford to ignore? Are the lottery prizes too big? The latest one was equivalent to the annual salaries of 2,000 teachers.

Dan Evans

HuntingtonAsk questions now

about school budgets

The 2010-11 school budgets are being developed now, will be put to vote in a few months, and will most likely increase out-of-control property taxes. Now is the time to go to your school board meetings and ask board members why the community's ability to pay is not even a factor in the equation.

Ask them why teachers who get paid for a full year and have almost 13 weeks of vacation, who have a better benefits package than you and a guaranteed pension that is exempt from New York State taxes, are being given salary increases that outpace inflation by two to three times. Ask your district for a copy of the proposed school budget and a copy of their labor agreements if they aren't online.

Don't look to our elected representatives in Albany to solve our problems with escalating school taxes. They haven't helped the voters in New York in the past and are afraid to upset the very powerful teachers union.

Jerry Romano

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Sea CliffDistrict reserves

are sound budgeting

Your editorial accusing school districts of "sitting on money" is terribly misleading ["Stop sitting on money," Opinion, Jan. 4]. The idea that it's the fault of school boards and school districts for high property taxes is a scam that is straight out of the Albany playbook.

School budgets include a legal cap of 4 percent for fund balance. Last month, Gov. David A. Paterson, who sits on a billion-dollar fund balance but won't use it to help the taxpayer, proposed that school districts use their reserves to help meet the state's deficit more than halfway through the fiscal year. This is just hypocritical. In addition to funding unexpected or emergency costs, many districts use these funds to reduce taxes.

You are correct in stating that some districts have overfunded reserves - but these are for specific future expenses, like employee benefits that Albany controls or capital projects we need.

The combination of prudent annual use of rainy day funds, plus accruing long-term reserves, is sound budgeting that ensures stability - something Albany is sorely lacking, and the Island's districts are smart enough to practice in the interest of their taxpayers.

Dennis P. Ryan

Deer ParkEditor's note: The writer is Board of Education president for Deer Park Union Free School District

The definition of heroI was stunned by the profound bravery of Rohan Wray ["Passerby saves child, grandpa from flames," News, Jan. 5]. Not only did he coax a terrified young boy into opening the front door, grabbing the child and taking him out of harm's way, but he went back into that burning home to save the boy's visually impaired grandfather.

As if that weren't enough, he once again ran back into that house screaming for anyone else who might be inside. Amazingly, Wray still had the presence of mind to grab two sheets from the burning house, wrapping them around the two survivors to keep them warm until help arrived.

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Wray doesn't consider himself a hero, but I certainly do. I am humbled by his incredible act of bravery.

Gail Ritter

PlainviewHealth care reform

no threat to freedom

A recent letter ["Obama's health plan endangers freedoms," Letters, Jan. 6] stated that America's founders wanted the government to have limited powers, and therefore the Democratic effort to reform the American health care system is a threat to our liberties and freedom.

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Let's not forget what other things America's founders wanted, like keeping African-Americans as slaves, prohibiting women from voting, exterminating the Native American population, and allowing only property-owners to vote and hold office.

America has changed and grown since it was founded. The real genius of the founders was establishing a framework for the government that allows change and growth to reflect the needs of the citizens.

Doug Lange

Massapequa ParkTry these six steps

to fix health care

If the president and the Congress really cared about this country, and not their own egos and prerogatives, they would follow a few easy, or relatively easy, steps to help the health care system and the rest of us.

1. No refusal for pre-existing conditions. You don't need this bill to do that!

2. Allow medical insurers to sell across state lines. You don't need this bill to do that!

3. Tort reform - the legislators' nightmare since they are all lawyers. Realistic limits need to be placed on compensation for medical malpractice. You don't need this bill to do that!

4. A clinic system so that the poor and those who really cannot afford health insurance can see the same doctor and not bankrupt hospitals when they go to emergency rooms. You don't need this bill to do that!

5. A small increase in Medicare premiums to help fund these ideas. You don't need this bill to do that!

6. Make drug companies compete for business with insurers instead of getting a blank check as under Medicare D. You don't need this bill to do that!

Now, did you need a 1,100-plus page monstrosity to understand the aforementioned reforms? God only knows what else is hidden in this onerous bill.

Wake up, America. Our dreams, and the dreams of our children and grandchildren, are being ransomed by our own government.

Nicholas Dallis

SmithtownDistricts do more than

just water hookups

In a recent article ["Tax districts expect hikes," News, Jan. 5], you inaccurately describe the responsibilities of area water districts as limited to providing "water hookups."

While I understand the need for brevity, this mischaracterization is not only offensive but serves to minimize the real duties water districts perform and the challenges they face on a daily basis. The real job that is performed consists of water resources management and public health and safety protection.

Richard W. Tobin

PlainviewEditor's note: The writer is chairman of the Long Island Water Conference.