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Rainy-day funds get drenched
With this week’s additions of Freeport and Wantagh, the list of Long Island school districts whacked by the state comptroller’s office for compiling excessive budget surpluses and unrestricted reserve funds has swelled to 21 in the past three years.
These big “rainy-day” accounts — many of which, as in Freeport and Wantagh, exceeded the legal limit of 4 percent of annual budgets — are seen by districts as a necessary cushion at a time when the state tax cap severely limits their options to raise revenue.
The fact that more than one-sixth of Long Island’s districts have been cited by the comptroller for these practices will be a factor in the likely attempt to tinker with the tax cap and/or the legal limit on reserves in the upcoming state legislative session.
Deer caught between mayor and governor
Mayor Bill de Blasio has animal issues.
In his 2013 mayoral race, he promised to put Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages out to pasture. That effort, supported by a deep-pocketed interest group, became the subject of investigations into his campaign fundraising.
In 2014, he fumbled a Staten Island groundhog during a routine ceremony. The groundhog later died of internal injuries.
This week, it’s a city-dwelling deer. The creature had found its way to Harlem, but was tranquilized by police on Thursday after it left a park.
Then the poor animal got caught in the ongoing feud between the mayor and great outdoorsman Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Though state regulations warn against transporting deer “because the poor chances for deer survival do not warrant the risks,” the governor intervened somewhat personally in this tangled thicket, offering alternate transportation to a site upstate rather than killing the deer.
There was a doe-eyed standoff. The deer did not blink but did die before it could benefit from the compromise reached to let the state take the animal upstate.
The strange tale might have had one unintended consequence: drawing attention from the news that grand juries are hearing testimony concerning investigations into the mayor’s campaign fundraising.
Science still outpacing NY
The New York Board of Regents agreed last week to revamp public school science standards for the first time in 20 years.
The main goal is to incorporate more experiments and research into the classroom and to set guidelines for teachers in the hope of encouraging careers in science — not to force nitty-gritty curriculum changes, which are actually set by individual districts.
But the time span since the last update is striking, considering how fast the world of science and technology moves and how much has changed in 20 years. There were no iPhones in 1996, many did not use email and hardly any shopping was done online. What else has changed?
— Poor Pluto was still a planet. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union announced Pluto would no longer be considered the ninth planet in our solar system but would instead be considered a dwarf planet. It eventually got its revenge, though, sort of, when it was announced that Pluto, and all other objects like it, would henceforth belong to a class known as “plutoids.”
— The periodic table of elements expanded significantly, most recently with this year’s addition of Nihonium (Nh, 113), Muscovium (Mc, 115), Tennesine (Ts, 117) and Oganesson (Og, 118).
— In 2001, the first draft of the Human Genome Project was published, mapping out human DNA.
— Speaking of genome projects, in 2010 the Neanderthal Genome Project showed that, thanks to crossbreeding, most of us have a little bit of Neanderthal in us.
— Liquid water was discovered on Mars in 2015.
So, let’s keep on updating those science standards, because we certainly keep updating the science.
Umm . . .
As bedraggled survivors began to stream out of war-torn Aleppo, Syrian President Bashar Assad compared the departure to the birth of Christ and the revelation of the Quran in its historic significance. The UN called it a “black chapter” in international history.