What does it say when state education aid hits a record high, but nine Long Island school districts seek to bust their state tax caps, the most since the year the cap went into effect in 2012?
Trouble is brewing. So it’s important that residents in all 124 Long Island public school districts vote Tuesday on school budgets and elect members of local school boards. Please keep some things in mind.
The tax cap continues to grind away. This year’s cap set by the state was a historically small 0.12 percent — a district’s number can vary based on several exemptions — and if inflation stays low, the cap will remain low, too. In an election year, the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo increased education aid more than 6 percent. But that rate won’t continue. Add in that school salaries continue to rise, an average of 2.5 percent next year on Long Island, and those nine cap-busting districts — six small ones on the East End, plus Elwood, Harborfields and Islip — could have lots of company soon. Unless, that is, districts make tough, wise and creative financial decisions — like the agreement that will let seventh- and eighth-graders from Springs play on East Hampton’s teams, a cost savings that kept Springs within its cap. Voters should elect school board members who will be independent and ready to assume this critical task. Newsday.com’s school voters guide is a good source of information on candidates and budgets.
Individual districts have their own issues. Harborfields can join the rest of Long Island in adding full-day kindergarten. Hempstead voters can continue to transform their school board by electing more reform-minded candidates who value accountability and transparency.
Then there’s the spending — more than $12.1 billion across 124 districts. This is important stuff. Get informed, and vote. — The editorial board