The vote on May 16 for two board seats, the 2017–18 budget and the revised bond is probably the most important school district vote in a generation. Truly, the outcome of this vote is going to set the direction of our school district—and the Great Neck community—for years to come. It is, most definitely, about much more than the budget or the bond. It is about what our community says about the importance of public education and the value we place on the education of the vast majority of children in our community who attend the Great Neck Public Schools. It is about whether Great Neck will continue to be a magnet community recognized for its exceptional public school system or start down a path that will change the face of Great Neck forever. That is why I am voting Yes on the budget and the bond.
During the first bond vote in February—and again now—there was a huge amount of misinformation and slanted information put out by those who want to see the defeat of the budget and the bond. They imply that the district spends excessively with no concern for the taxpayer. They imply there is waste and fraud and mismanagement of tax dollars. They argue that the bond, in particular, includes an excessive amount of items that are simply not needed. All of this cannot be further from the truth.
The fact is that during the last six years, the school district’s average tax levy increase has been approximately 1.77 percent. The average rate of inflation during that same time period has been approximately 1.5 percent. The math is clear. Our district has been able to maintain its outstanding programs and services, and provide the non-public school sector with more than $6.5 million in services annually, including busing, books, nursing services and special-education services, with an average tax levy increase that is less than three-tenths of one percent more than the inflation rate. That speaks to outstanding fiscal management and a focus on preserving the educational programs that make our school district one of the best in the state and country.
As for the bond, to say that replacing roofs, aging energy-inefficient windows and decaying building exteriors that need repair is excessive is simply wrong. To say that updating science labs to support the increasingly more complex and advanced science curriculum is excessive is simply wrong. And, to say that creating libraries that become learning and research hubs for the collaborative work of students and teachers, supported by the latest technology, is excessive is simply wrong. That is what the bond is about.
The budget and bond format is precisely what has proven successful and what has been the situation in our district for decades. This format is nothing new. Bonds take care of major work that is more financially prudent to be funded through bonds that allow payment to be spread over a longer period of time while getting work done in a short amount of time. The district’s current 20-year bond is about to be paid off in full. That is why moving forward with a new bond for major necessary work that focuses on health and safety, educational and physical district asset preservation, makes sense—it helps mitigate any tax burden from the new bond proposal. This revised bond offering is a chance to keep our school district superior to others while locking down still historically low-interest rates.
The school tax implications in regards to the revised bond are nowhere near as high as many people looking to defeat the bond are saying. It is critical that everyone understand that their taxes are based on what Nassau County has determined is the value of your home. That number is not the market value of your home or what your home would sell for. In fact, it is typically significantly less than the market value of your home. To see what Nassau County has determined how much your home should be assessed for tax purposes, visit
lrv.nassaucountyny.gov. So, for example, a homeowner with a home that Nassau County assesses at $750,000 (which most likely has a true market value of more than $1 million) would be paying an additional $177.94 a year more than the current debt portion of their school tax bill. That is less than $15 more a month—and look how much we get!
Anyone who knows me personally knows that I encourage and implore involvement. As you are reading this, I urge you to mobilize and get involved. Vote Yes on May 16, attend future Board of Education meetings and our district-wide UPTC (United Parent-Teacher Council) meetings so you remain involved. This involvement will enable you to see, firsthand, that these budget and bond formulations didn’t just fall from the sky and onto our laps, but have been the outcome of hours upon hours, days upon days, of combing through data and finances while assessing community and administrative needs and wants.
Whether or not you have children in the public schools or send your children to private schools, it’s imperative that these votes pass in order to ensure the excellence of our public school
district which, in turn, is a major reason homes in Great Neck are some of the most valuable in the country. Vote Yes for the budget. Vote Yes for the bond. Vote Yes for our children.