On May 16, Great Neck residents will be asked by the Great Neck school board to approve its annual budget of $223.3 million, which is under the state-mandated cap, and to support a construction bond authorization of $68 million over five years. As a Great Neck resident of 44-plus years, whose children were raised here and schooled in the Great Neck public system, I strongly urge all school-district residents to vote Yes to the budget and the bond authorization. Failure to vote Yes to both requests will be a deadly body-blow to our community, most directly and immediately impacting on our youngest generations. Defunding our public schools will deliver a severe setback not only to our own public school children, but also to children attending parochial schools, the special-needs children who come here from other school districts as well as to our seniors and Park District residents.
Our school district is an institution that is highly integrated with other major public agencies in our community—such as the Park District and other institutions that support services for senior citizens. These agencies cooperate fully to share services and facilities. If the school budget is not approved, expenditures will revert to a prior year, with the result that programs across a broad spectrum will have to be cut. Transportation, educational programs of all types, as well as staff will have to come under the knife. If the bond authorization, which will finance critical repairs and modernization for the school board’s 18 buildings over a period of five years, is not approved, funds for these needs will have to come from the annual budget, which is limited by state-mandated caps on expenditures Further cuts will be required.
It is difficult to exaggerate the enormity of the damage that defunding will inflict on our public school system, impacting on the future of our children, who by all measures are among the highest achievers in our nation, and to the community at large. Parochial institutions, which enjoy a tax-exempt status, will not go unscathed, as it is likely the school board will not be able to provide the current levels of support services, such as transportation, books and remedial services. Every other segment of our community will feel the loss of valued facilities, services and support programs. The incentives for families to come to Great Neck to educate and rear their children will be seriously diminished. The adverse effect on property values is obvious.
It is indeed ironic that the failure to provide the funds our school board needs to deliver and support high-quality educational services will be self-defeating from a financial perspective. My experiences with various public agencies in our community (schools, parks, sewer district) clearly show that operating obsolete, deteriorating plant and equipment causes expenses to rise sharply while the quality of services provided declines to low levels. In recent years, the decision to upgrade and modernize our sewage treatment facilities (employing bond financing) yielded savings in the tens of millions (yes, I said tens of millions) through increased efficiencies. Our Park District has figured out how to generate substantial revenues from fees from specific recreational and athletic facilities. The Great Neck school board also has revenue-generating programs and some of these arise from services provided to other school districts. I believe there is great potential for growth in this area. But these opportunities will be lost if our community withdraws its support from its public school system which, from all independent and objective measures, is run by dedicated, highly capable and well-managed professional educators.
So to all those voters who have reservations or plan to vote No on either the budget or the bond authorization, I ask you to take a long hard look in the mirror—and vote your conscience.
The slate of candidates running for two soon-to-be vacant seats on the Great Neck Board of Education is now down to four. Of those remaining candidates, I strongly believe Rebecca Sassouni and Jeff Shi are the ones who are best qualified to be trustees of our public school system.
Rebecca Sassouni has an extensive and distinguished record of service to Great Neck Public Schools. Jeff Shi is an information technology expert who has described a strongly positive vision and role for Great Neck’s public schools in preparing our children for the challenges they will face in the future. He has the support of the Great Neck Chinese Association, which reflects a large and growing element in our community and who enthusiastically support Great Neck Public Schools.
In my opinion, Sassouni and Shi have the most relevant backgrounds and interests and are in the best position to contribute strongly toward upholding the high standards of educational achievement and community support maintained by our public schools.
I urge all Great Neck school district residents to come out to vote on election day, Tuesday May 16, and vote Yes to both the Budget and the Bond Referendum and also vote to elect Rebecca Sassouni and Jeff Shi as trustees.