The story "School districts criticized for cash surpluses" [News, Oct. 14] reports that our district has overestimated expenditures by $33.9 million over five years. As we asserted to the state comptroller's office as it prepared its audit, this is a gross mischaracterization of our financial position.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has made it a point to criticize districts for taxing residents and then returning the money to them in the form of lower tax levies. This is what we and most other districts have lawfully done for decades. The comptroller's aggregation of this number is pointless and misrepresents our district's healthy budget practices.
We have rightly funded our reserves to create budgetary soundness, and we do not, in our opinion, hold excess surplus. Our district has $10.8 million in a variety of restricted reserves, and about $1.2 million in capital reserves. This is roughly half of the average for school districts in New York, as a percentage of reserves to the total budget.
We disagree with the comptroller's philosophy of local school budget management. But the context that matters to taxpayers is that our levy increase has been less than 2 percent for six consecutive years, with no reduction to programs, with enhancement of school facilities, and while moderately drawing on our reserves.
We believe we have been prudent in our planning and continue to use surplus funds wisely.
Julia Binger, Northport
Editor's note: The writer is president of the Northport-East Northport school board.
Effort to change Catholic teaching
Benjamin Brenkert recounted his dilemma of being an openly gay man who left his studies for the priesthood because of what he perceived to be unfair treatment of gays .
He cites cases where actions were taken by the Catholic Church against lay people serving in leadership positions because of their flagrant violation of orthodox doctrine, such as the gay religious teacher from Oceanside who was removed when he "married" his gay partner.
Brenkert suggests that he does not want to change Catholic moral doctrine in regard to the sanctity of holy matrimony, which the church insists can only exist between one man and one woman. He says he wants the church to be more "compassionate and understanding." Newsday's story offered little defense of the church for doing nothing more than upholding its moral doctrine.
There is no religious institution that is more compassionate and welcoming to gays than the Catholic Church. The church has continually insisted that homosexuality is not a sin; it is the act of homosexuality that is a sin. Brenkert claims that he does not want to change Catholic teaching, but isn't that what he is really advocating?
Robert L. Olson, Baiting Hollow
No need to regulate urgent care centers
I applaud "The rise of urgent care" [News, Sept. 28], regarding the growth of urgent care centers. Such centers have been operating in New York for more than 30 years, providing on-demand access to high-quality care for patients with unexpected medical needs. This year, urgent care will account for an estimated 7 million patient visits statewide.
Last year, New York State sought to add substantial and duplicative regulations that would increase patient costs and reduce access. The North East Regional Urgent Care Association believes that urgent care medicine is already well regulated and does not require additional oversight.
Fortunately, the state ultimately refrained.
Dr. Jonathan S. Halpert, Albany
Editor's note: The writer is the president of the North East Regional Urgent Care Association.
Bowhunting on trail too dangerous
I heard rumors about allowing bowhunting on the state Department of Environmental Conservation property in Kings Park, but I thought they were too absurd to be true ["Bowhunters near homes, trail, school," News, Oct. 10].
I know those woods; I've been walking and hiking them with my wife and dog for 10 years. Besides the handicap-accessible trail, there are marked hiking trails. The neighborhood kids ride mountain bikes there. Also, for a wilderness area, it's not very big and is adjacent to residential neighborhoods.
Allowing bowhunting here is the stupidest decision I've ever heard. An arrow that can fell a deer can certainly kill a human, and if bowhunting is allowed to continue on that property, sooner or later it will.
Bruce Schoenberg, Smithtown
Too many gov'ts on LI, 26 years later
Bruce Stillman, president and chief executive of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, is right when he says that Long Island is overburdened with a "gazillion" governmental bodies ["Lab's CEO: LI lacks cool places for young to live," Business, Oct. 8]!
Grumman Corp. chairman John O'Brien, in addressing the Long Island Association in 1988, stated the same ["O'Brien Blasts LI Politics," Business, Sept. 8, 1988].
If anything, this problem has only gotten worse in 26 years. We are forcing our highly educated youth to leave, and we aren't able to attract talented people and industries to Long Island.
I hope a lab of such distinction as Cold Spring Harbor is able to survive here.
John Michaelsen, Setauket