MPSA Meeting Reviews
To see past meeting reviews please scroll down.
Meeting Date: 02/15/2017
MANHASSET TEACHERS CONTRACT
Just to clear the record, the Manhasset Board of Education announced that it had unanimously approved a 4 year agreement with its teachers union beginning July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2020 with the following salary increases:
0% increase in 2016-17
0.75% increase in 2017-18
1% increase in 2018-19
0.75% increase in 2019-2020
The Board failed to mention that the aforementioned increases were in addition to the annual 3 to 5% step increases previously negotiated by the teachers union.
Manhasset Salary Info
Meeting Date: 09/30/2016
Attached is a link to the Manhasset School District's employee payroll. The median salary is $116,282. Healthcare, pensions and other benefits would increase personnel costs by approximately 30%.
MPSA believes Manhasset taxpayers should be informed and encourage our followers throughout Long Island to access their District's payroll which is available at SeeThroughNew York
Manhasset Payroll Link
NY State Payroll Link
Meeting Date: 06/27/2016
MANHASSET RESIDENTS OVER TAXED $9.8 MILLION
According to the June 23 edition of "The Island Now", the Manhasset School District closed out the 2015-16 school budget showing about $1.5 million in extra funds. Missing from the article were the "extra funds" from the previous three years:
In the year 2012-13, the "extra funds" were $1,537,000
In the year 2013-14, the "extra funds" were $3,042,000
In the year 2014-15, the "extra funds" were $3,717,000
The padded budgets for four consecutive years totaled approximately $9.8 million dollars. To make matters worse, since every school budget is based on the previous year's school budget, not the actual funds spent in the previous year, the taxpayers are subjected to compounded budget padding.
Once is a mistake but four consecutive years is a pattern which begs the question, "what happened to the money"? Did the Manhasset District spend the "surplus" to pay off a portion of the capital bond which the community generously passed two years ago or did the District spend the "surplus" on another layer of bureaucracy even as student enrollment is declining? Recently, the District put the taxpayer on notice that the "use (of the 2015-16 surplus) is still to be determined". Here is a novel idea, return all the extra funds to whom they belong, the taxpayer, in the form of a lower tax levy.
MPSA encourages concerned taxpayers throughout Long Island to investigate if their district is involved in budget overestimation of expenses and underestimation of revenue. Your school district's "Annual Report" may be posted on the school website. If not, why not? Search for the section that refers to "revenues over budget" and "expenditures under budget" " i.e. the extra funds or padded budget. A footnote may specify how your district intends to spend or has spent the extra funds.
Prosecutors have been content with prosecuting low level fraudsters for pension violations or petty embezzlement but, to date, appear to be reluctant to investigate and prosecute school district's that may be involved in multi million dollar school budget padding deceptions. Why?
Meeting Date: 06/12/2016
Reclaim New York Files Suit Against Oyster Bay, Manhasset & Elmont Schools to Force Compliance with Transparency Laws
Entities violated State FOIL, refusing to release contracts & expenditure information
(New York, NY) – At a press conference today on the steps of the State Supreme Courthouse in Mineola, the non-profit Reclaim New York Center for Government Reform and Accountability (Reclaim New York) announced the filing of Article 78 litigation against three major government entities in Nassau County, all of which recently refused to comply with New York State’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).The suit alleges that the Town of Oyster Bay, Manhasset School District, and Elmont School District all failed to adhere to transparency laws when they denied or ignored requests to reveal contracts and expenditure information.,
“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to beg to see how local government spends their money,” said Reclaim New York Executive Director Brandon Muir. The organization launched an unprecedented, statewide transparency project last month, to open the checkbooks of all of New York’s 3,400-plus governments to public view. More than 250 FOIL requests were sent to Long Island governments. “This lawsuit and others, combine with our grassroots effort to put every public official and taxpayer-funded entity on notice that the days of spending money in the shadows are over.”
“Long Islanders pay some of the highest taxes in the nation, they deserve open government that is proactively transparent,” Muir continued. “Shining a light on these entities and others will help fight corruption, and give people more confidence in government.”
Reclaim has already filed an additional 250 FOIL requests in the Hudson Valley.
More than 75 percent of governments across Long Island that received FOIL requests from Reclaim New York provided the information. However, the three subject to lawsuits, as well as more than three dozen others failed to comply with the law.
The Town of Oyster Bay’s refusal is particularly disturbing in light of scandals like Harendra Singh’s alleged bribery and loan scheme.
Oyster Bay ignored a formal appeal, and follow up phone calls, after requesting a 20 day extension. Reclaim New York went above and beyond the legal requirements, sending a formal appeal directly to Supervisor Venditto after the extension period had lapsed. The appeal was ignored.
The Elmont School District, which recently came under fire for paying Thomas Galante even after he was fired for abusing taxpayer dollars as CEO of the Queens Library, made the unbelievable claim that they did not have records that tracked payments to vendors. The school district also ignored a formal appeal from Reclaim New York.
The Manhasset School District outright denied Reclaim’s FOIL request for records they are legally obligated to provide. Like Elmont, they claimed they also did not keep records for their expenditures and that disclosure of taxpayer-funded expenditures could violate privacy laws.
In the coming weeks, all the checkbook information Reclaim New York has received from Long Island will be included in a new, searchable online database. This public resource will allow any citizen, for the first time, to see how their taxpayer dollars are being spent, and set an example for governments on how they can be proactively transparent.
“Today, we can use technology to ensure accountability,” said Muir. “This effort engages people across the state in demanding not only government compliance, but greater access to spending information. The New York Transparency Project will destroy barriers that keep the public in the dark while government spends more every year.”
Visit NYTransparency.org for more information.
Reclaim New York is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to advancing a state-wide, grassroots conversation about the future of New York, its economy, and its people. It provides information and seminars on the challenges we face as a state while giving citizens the tools they need to engage in the process of reform. Learn more at ReclaimNewYork.org. Follow on Twitter @ReclaimNewYork.
Meeting Date: 05/21/2016
SCHOOL BOARDS ADOPT CORRUPT BUDGET PRACTICES TO UNDERMINE TAX CAP
For several years, the Manhasset School Board in collaboration with their administrators, has underestimated revenues and overestimated expenses by $8.3 million dollars in crafting their annual budget a sample of years follows:
Year Padded Padded Total
Revenues Expense Padded
2012-13 $790,000 $747,000 $1,537,000
2013-14 $1,841,000 $1,201,000 $3,042,000
2014-15 $1,445,000 $2,272,000 $3,717,000
Total Padding for three years: $8.3 million
According to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a random audit of six selected school districts has unearthed evidence that many school boards are overestimating their needs and stashing the cash, approximately $100 million, in “rainy day” funds (Newsday, The Point, "Are school budgets artificially inflated?", May 13, 2016).
When a school district pads a budget by 4% and then adds up to 2% allowed by the tax cap, property taxes effectively rise 6% and the process is compounded yearly. Needless to state, the budget padding scheme generates millions of dollars that is redirected toward funding ever rising administrator and teacher salaries. The corrupt budget practice explains how Long Island districts despite declining enrollments, inexplicably hire more staff and raise salaries 3-5% annually, while announcing a budget within the 2% cap. More scandalous, MPSA is alleging as is the State Comptroller, the scam is perpetrated by elected school board officials; the very people entrusted with our taxes.
Over the past year, MPSA has exposed the corrupt budget practice but timid prosecutors have been reluctant to take on the educational establishment. However, recently the Association for a Better Long Island has taken up the challenge. ABLI filed a formal complaint with the state education commissioner as a precedent to a lawsuit. They want school districts to give back the money and lower tax levies. We wish them success.
Meeting Date: 05/12/2016
In 2014, the Manhasset School Board successfully promoted a $22.6 million capital bond based on an in-house, self serving study which cited increased student enrollment as the major cause of building expansion. In fact, total students are down 16 from last year (3339 - 3323) while total staff is up 6 from last year (513 - 507). Total students are down 45 from 2 years ago (3339 - 3294) whereas total staff is up 19 from 2 years ago (513 - 494). Buried deep in the 2016-2017 Manhasset Board of Education Home Page are enrollment statistics which project a population decline of 100 students between 2016 and 2020.
So where does this leave us?
-While enrollment declined, the District increased staff and incurred salary and benefit costs including generous pensions and health care to be borne by the taxpayer.
-While enrollment declined, the District burdened the taxpayer with a $22.6 million bond plus interest for the next 20 years to erect a multi-million dollar office complex which houses approximately 22 administrative staff.
-While enrollment declined, the District funded a $22.6 million dollar capital bond, hired 19 new staff and offered union employees salary increases that double the private sector. While claiming they are within the tax cap, the District hid from homeowners, through a maze of legal maneuvers, the actual cost which is accelerating at a compounded rate of approximately 6%.
On May 17, when you vote on the 2016-2017 school budget, you may want to send a message: lies, half-truths and feigned ignorance that promote a deliberate irresponsible fiscal policy will no longer be tolerated. MPSA, for their part, will ask the Office of the State Comptroller to investigate allegations that the School District engaged in a "willful distortion of facts" that require the attention of a prosecutor.
Meeting Date: 02/04/2016
A GUEST EDITORIAL
MPSA has always fought for educational excellence and fiscal sanity. "The Education Investment Incentives Act" would not only lower school taxes but would also improve educational excellence through competition".
PASS THE NYS ASSEMBLY BILL:
EDUCATION INVESTMENT INCENTIVE ACT #A2551
Please call your local NYS Assembly Representatives and ask their support for Assembly Bill# A2551.
We have a small window of opportunity to help our fellow taxpayers by passing this piece of legislation.
The bill provides credits against income and corporate franchise tax for various qualified education investments including scholarships, education funds and instructional materials in both public, private and parochial schools.
The bill, which already has passed the NY Senate, enjoys support from both sides of the political spectrum. However, it is being held up until the Assembly leadership observes a groundswell of support from YOU!
Frank J. Russo, Jr., the President of the American Family Association of NY and who serves on the Executive Committee of Long Islanders for Education Reform, explained it very clearly:
“The question is: will our state legislature act to get this bill passed or will they yield to the teacher unions who oppose even this small step in the direction of justice, providing school choice for parents and tax relief for hard-pressed taxpayers? This bill has overwhelmingly passed the Republican controlled NY Senate many times, but has never been allowed a vote in the Democrat controlled NY Assembly, even though many Assembly Democrats and Gov. Cuomo supported the bill. The reason is obvious—the Democrat leaders of the Assembly fear the teacher unions, who are major financial donors to their Party, and place the teacher union interests above those of students".
Your calls are necessary for this bill to pass. The Assembly leadership is responsible for the bill’s failure last year. We have a small window of opportunity but we have to make our voices heard. Make the call. Push to get A2551 out of committee and onto the Assembly floor for a vote. Tell your Assembly Member to support this bill.
Meeting Date: 01/19/2016
THE ALBANY EDUCATIONAL ESTABLISHMENT MISLEADS INNOCENT TAXPAYERS
Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is on a crusade to clean up the Albany cesspool. He has already successfully prosecuted Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, the highest ranking NYS legislative leaders, and he has notified taxpayers to stay tuned for further prosecutions. MPSA supports criminal prosecution as perhaps the only language to prevent our corrupt officials from taking advantage of innocent taxpayers.
MPSA has a tip for all New York prosecutors intent on cleaning up fraud and corruption: take a long hard look at the Albany Education Establishment where, in our opinion, fraud and corruption originates but eventually seeps down to Districts such as Manhasset. Fraud and corruption in the form of "school budget padding" has been described by the NYS Comptroller's Office, as a method devised to misled innocent taxpayer's into overpaying millions of dollars in taxes. According to Comptroller DiNapoli, taxpayers in Commack, Sayville and Connetquot have overpaid their taxes in each District by $30 million, on average, over the last few years.
In MPSA's opinion, "school budget padding" is conducted with either the direct knowledge of School Board Presidents, or the direct failure of School Board Presidents to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities. But School Board Presidents don't act alone. They have willing accomplices in School District Financial Officers responsible for preparing school budgets and Independent Certified Public Accountants responsible for the integrity of the numbers. We believe, the threat of criminal prosecution of School Board Presidents and supporting fiduciaries will put an end to "school budget padding".
As a grass roots organization, MPSA operates in the best interest of children and taxpayers, ensuring that academic and financial results are transparent and fairly reported by school officials. As a proud whistle-blower, to facilitate criminal prosecution where appropriate, MPSA can provide "school budget padding" evidence to appropriate government agencies.
Meeting Date: 10/22/2015
DO SCHOOL BOARDS REPRESENT CHILDREN AND TAXPAYERS
OR UNIONIZED COLLEAGUES
According to Newsday, October 13, 2015 (pages A2-3), in 2014-15, a School Official retired from the Hewlett-Woodmere School District with a total compensation of $625,214. A School Official retired from the East Meadow SD with a total compensation of $454,527. School Officials from the Jericho SD and the Syosset SD came in at $371,374. and $371,124 respectively. In fact, 57 Long Island Educators ranked among the 100 highest paid employees in New York public schools and colleges.
Moreover, the taxpayer's largesse is not limited to administrators. Senior teachers' total compensation including salary, lifetime pensions and healthcare, is now trending over $200,000 (see "See through New York: The Empire Center). Thrown in for good measure is ironclad job protection regardless of performance.
Taxpayers may ponder why our elected School Board Trustees secretly negotiate with administrator and teacher unions and then hand the bill to homeowners. Taxpayers may inquire why School Board Trustees annually increase personnel salaries and benefits without any regard to merit. Taxpayers may question why School Board Trustees float bonds for ordinary school maintenance such as roof or lavatory repair but always seem to have enough revenue to meet union demands for ever increasing compensation. Taxpayers may wonder why School Board Trustees budget more taxes than necessary and then compound padded budgets annually.
The real question is, "Do our local School Boards represent children and taxpayers or do they represent their unionized colleagues?"
Meeting Date: 10/13/15
A CASE OF LEGALIZED ROBBERY
Previously, MPSA reported that Administrators in three School Districts knowingly and willingly padded school budgets which resulted in taxpayers overpaying school taxes by approximately $30,000,000 or $90,000,000 in aggregate.
Since taxpayers have a legal right to accurate and factual information before voting on a school budget, it appears that Administrators in the three Districts violated the law by denying taxpayers the necessary information to cast an informed vote. Furthermore, State Enforcement Agencies charged with enforcing the law, have been timid and unwilling to take on the Educational Establishment, namely, Administrator Associations and Unions.
Collecting more taxes than is necessary is legalized robbery. Therefore, School Board Trustees, Superintendents and Administrators that deceive the public by submitting materially misstated financial statements prior to a public vote, should be subject to immediate dismissal, fines and in extreme cases jail, as the law prescribes.
Meeting Date: 08/11/2015
Teachers Unions -- Single Most Destructive Force
Wall Street Journal Editorial - Aug. 3, 2015
'Single Most Destructive Force'
Chris Christie identifies the main problem in U.S. public education
You don't have to be a "progressive" to conclude that once in a while America makes political progress, and not always toward the left. One sign of real progress in recent years is the growing consensus that teachers unions are the main obstacle to improvement in American public schools.
That was apparent Sunday during an interview on CNN. Host Jake Tapper played to the media stereotype of GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie by asking the New Jersey Governor a question about who "at the national level deserves a punch in the face?" Mr. Christie could have been forgiven for saying Mr. Tapper. But he had a better answer: "Oh, the national teachers union, who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election."
Mr. Tapper: "Why?"
Mr. Christie: "Because they're not for education for our children. They're for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009. I've got the scars to show it. But I'm never going to stop saying it, because they never change their stripes."
Every word of that is true and important to say. The teachers unions have been punching poor children for decades, and someone has to punch back for those children
MPSA believes the teachers union has promoted a membership agenda of unaccountability coupled with meritless salary increases. For over forty years, the union has courted school board trustees seeking political careers and legislators seeking campaign funds, all the while hiding behind "the children ".
Meeting Date: 07/22/2015
THE POLITICAL MACHINE SUES TO REPEAL THE 2% TAX CAP
The 2% tax cap battle is not over. The Teacher Union has sued twice to have the law overturned. While the Teacher Union is the face of the lawsuits, behind the scenes, their allies, Superintendent and School Board Professional Associations have supported the Union lawsuits by promoting the false narrative that the 2% tax cap "hurts the children". Missing from the Teachers Union, Superintendents and School Board Association narrative is the generous pedagogical retirement packages routinely offered across Long Island: $4,000,000-$6,000,000 in the case of Superintendents. Apparently, the Education Political Machine believes diverting school taxes to fund lavish retirement packages does not "hurt the children" but offering tax relief to children's' families "hurts the children".
One expects Unions to be roadblocks to reform. One does not expect local Superintendents and School Board Associations to enable Unions to be roadblocks to reform. If School Boards don't act as bulwarks against excessive Union demands, the taxpayer has no voice. Therefore, any School Board President who does not support the 2% tax cap and/or circumvents the law should resign immediately.
MPSA believes most reasonable homeowners welcome and support the 2% tax cap. Given insurmountable lifetime guaranteed retirement packages and absent the 2% tax cap, your current school taxes would double every 9 years. As such, a 47 year old homeowner currently with taxes of $18,000 would be paying $36,000 at age 56 and $72,000 at age 65, just at the time of his/her retirement.
The truth is the tax cap has provided household financial stability with predictable annual tax increases and has not diminished the quality of education. We trust you are supportive of the 2% tax cap. Fortunately, the NYS Supreme Court is supportive. The Court denied both lawsuits, but don't expect the Political Machine that is the Teachers Union, the Superintendent and School Board Associations to give up.
Meeting Date: 07/06/2015
AND THE WINNER IS.....
The winner in the annual fiasco, AKA Albany's budget process, is the Teachers Union that successfully opposed the Education Tax Credit Bill because it threatened the Union's educational monopoly.
That would be the same Union that brought you a "gummed up" teacher evaluation process whereby virtually every public school teacher is rated either effective or highly effective. That would be the same Union that fought for automatic annual salary step increases for public school teachers regardless of merit. That would be the same Union that has stood in the way of public school teacher tenure reform. That would be the same Union that steadfastly opposes the removal of incompetent teachers from public school classrooms. That would be the same union that filed a legal challenge against the property tax cap. And that would be the same Union that maintains an educational monopoly that stifles improvement.
The losers are children being denied scholarship funds and tax credits for a quality education of their choice. The losers are families that want to chose schools that teach their values. The losers are taxpayers whose school taxes would have been reduced over time if the EducationTax Credit Bill had passed (NYTimes 11/24/91).
The Union enablers in the NYS Legislature argued that the Bill benefited wealthy donors. To argue that donating money enriches Donors is absurd and an insult to constituent intelligence. One Assembly Person's default response was: "....but, but, but public schools would lose money". Well NO! Most parochial schools educate children at less than half of the cost of public schools which would result in more funding per public school student.
MPSA has compiled a list of Legislators who sided with the powerful Teachers Union over powerless children. They deserve a call.
Charles Levine. Glen Cove
Earlene Hooper. Hempstead
Phillip Ramos. Brentwood
Kimberly Jean Pierre. Lindenhurst, Amityville
Steve Englebert. Setauket, Port Jefferson, Coram
And Michele Schimel, Head of the Democratic Majority Conference, who supported the Education Tax Credit until, at the last moment, she pulled her support.
Kudos to Senator Jack Martins who fought the first battle in the civil rights issue of our day; Education Choice.
Meeting Date: 05/05/2015
SCHOOL DISTRICT NEEDS HONEST LEADERSHIP
MPSA has uncovered documents establishing that as early as September 23, 2014, the Manhasset School Board had access to data that projected a significant decline in student enrollment. Nevertheless for sixty days leading up to the December 3, 2014 bond vote, the Board allowed their Superintendent to declare publicly, on numerous occasions, that the District would have "large enrollment through 2020 and beyond".
As MPSA widened its probe into the aforementioned egregious breach of public trust, we uncovered a similar scenario in the Sachem Central School District, a School District very familiar to Superintendent Cardillo since, according to the Manhasset Press, Cardillo served as Deputy Superintendent in the Sachem School District. In 2003, a Legal Complaint was filed with the Education Commissioner alleging that the Sachem District "overestimated enrollment projections" resulting in unnecessary higher school taxes. It appears Sachem and Manhasset have much in common.
Local politicians who take advantage of naïve residents: who disregard the financial plight of Seniors; who build monuments to their administration, in this case a new administration building to house the Superintendent, do not deserve the public's trust or support.
Meeting Date: 04/14/2015
SCHOOL BOARD ADMITS ENROLLMENT WILL DECLINE
A determined Manhasset School Board successfully promoted a $22.6 million capital expansion bond based on their internal administrative study that projected increased student enrollment. We now learn, through an examination of revised school documents, the Board overstated increased enrollment assumptions by 48.6%; as such, student enrollment will decrease steadily to levels not seen since 2011.
MPSA alleges the School Board knew or should have known their internal administrative study was based on outdated, incomplete and unreasonable assumptions. Further, the School Board abdicated its fiduciary responsibility of due care when it allowed its own administration to calculate enrollment projections instead of hiring an independent consulting firm that specializes in such enrollment projections.
So where does this leave us?
-Administrators will be rewarded with a new, wasteful, lavish office building to house 22 bureaucrats.
-School Board Trustees and their high tax Support Organizations, such as PASS, who supported the enrollment growth farce appear to have become part of the Nassau County political establishment (Newsday)
-Taxpayers are on the hook to pay the $22.6 million plus interest creating a 38% higher tax cap for the next 20 years; while the Administrators, School Board President Regina Rule, Board Trustees and Support Organizations have long moved on.
MPSA believes residents have a reasonable expectation that local officials inform them accurately, completely, truthfully. When a School Board deliberately withholds, alters of skews information pertinent to a bond referendum, taxpayers have an obligation to seek recourse from the Office of the State Comptroller.
Meeting Date: 03/31/2015
Manhasset Tax Cap Is A Sham
In 2015-16, most School Districts in Nassau County have adhered to the letter and spirit of the tax cap by raising taxes at the basic tax cap rate of 1.6%. The Manhasset School District is an exception. The District recently announced it will raise taxes by 2.6%, due in part to a recent $22 million bond. However, the 2.6% increase is a sham, as the real increase approximates 7.4%. Details follow:
In a prior year, Manhasset voters allowed the School Board to raise taxes by approximately 1.8% over and above the tax cap. Voters thought the 1.8% raise was just for one year, but we now learn we were duped as the 1.8% was a permanent raise. So in essence, this year's tax increase of 2.6% coupled with the aforementioned tax increase of 1.8% brings the real increase to 4.4%.
But there is more bad news. On top of the 4.4% tax increase is another 3% surplus that was generated by the 2014/2015 padded budget. It is last year's padded budget that becomes the baseline for the 2015-16 budget bringing the real increase to 7.4% (School District Audited Results).
Under School Board President Regina Rule's leadership, the Board has undermined a well intentioned tax cap, that would have offered tax payers relief by limiting annual tax increases to the lower of 2% or the rate of inflation which is 1.6% this year.
Meeting Date: 03/18/2015
FUNDING FOR LAVISH RETIREMENT LIFESTYLES
All New Yorkers concerned with academic funding for their children should read the attached letter relating to the elimination of corrupt practices: reprobate practices that maximize tax dollars going into retiree pockets and minimize tax dollars going into classrooms.
Newsday recently cited superintendent's pension payout that may approximate $4,000,000-$6,000,000, depending on actuary assumptions-MPSA is alleging Manhasset's superintendents pension may also fall within that range: money that will never make its way into the classroom,
but instead will provide funding for a lavish retirement lifestyle.
Of course the superintendent is just one of the many employees which MPSA estimates will earn a retirement payout of approximately $3,000,000.
So why aren't school boards supporting legislation that puts more tax dollars into the classroom? Perhaps many trustees have become "defenders of the status quo" with zero appetite to take on the unions. Here in Manhasset, fiscal policies promoted by School Board President, Regina Rule, have led NYS Regulators and Independent Credit Agencies to label the School District the only North Shore community that operates under "Financial Stress", meaning we fund our operations with borrowed money.
Residents will be paying for wasteful practices long after Board Presidents, such as Regina Rule have resigned.
CENTER FOR COST EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT
March 11, 2015
Ending Overtime in Pension Calculations
The bad news related to Newsday's article (Top Pensions in NY State, March 11) is that six figure pensions are bankrupting local governments and property taxpayers.. The good news is that there will soon be a bill to end this nightmare.
Last year the Center for Cost Effective Government (I serve as executive director) crafted with Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick a mandate relief bill that would end defined benefit pensions for future employees.Taxpayers would no longer be on the hook for guaranteeing 7.5% returns on public pensions.. But more immediately we are being crushed by the outrageous amounts of overtime that are inflating final year salaries upon which annual pensions are based.
Defenders of the status quo claim the system can't be changed because pensioners are guaranteed this overtime inflation under the state constitution which prohibits diminishing an employee's pension. We agree that this clause limits our ability to change to a defined contribution system for existing employees, but that clause does not prohibit us from eliminating overtime or unused sick days from being factored into pensions for current personnel. The bill we are drafting with Assemblyman Fitzpatrick will end this insanity immediately, rather than waiting two decades down the road.
If someone wants to challenge this bill, let them do so in court If they win, then change the constitution. We did it for gambling; we can do it to stop this crazy overtime policy.
Steve Levy served as Suffolk County executive, 2004 - 2011, and in NY State Assembly, 2001-2003. He is presently Executive Director of Center For Cost Effective Government, and host of "The Steve Levy Radio Show."
Meeting Date: 03/09/2015
Below is positive reaction to our last e-mail in which we revealed Manhasset School Board trustees, after encouraging residents to pay "their fair share", were petitioning/grieving their own school taxes:
"Everyone should grieve their school taxes. Better yet, the school board should practice fiscal restraint so people won't have to grieve their taxes."
"The old Liberal playbook....spend OPM (other people's money)"
"Thank you for highlighting the lack of transparency and lack of honesty."
"The Board's spending policies have put the district and every taxpayer under fiscal stress, and then they grieve their own taxes. A classic case of kicking the can down the road and leaving us with a mess after they're gone"
"The scheme is called BEGGAR THY NEIGHBOR! School board members raise everyone else's taxes while cutting their own."
And now the negative reaction:
"how low can you get! for shame!"
OUR REPLY: It is shameful for school board trustees to tax and bond residents and then attempt to shift their own taxes onto their neighbors.
"This is just silly"
OUR REPLY: A clique that feigns moral superiority while quietly shifting their tax burden onto their neighbors can be called many things but it may be "silly" to call them "silly ".
As is our policy, we welcome all comments and adhere to strict confidentiality.
Meeting Date: 02/05/2015
PETTY AND NOT SO PETTY CORRUPTION
Although he will have his day in court, former New York Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver's recent arrest confirms what most residents already know: too many of our public servants may be guilty of petty and not so petty corruption. Too many public servants ask, "What's in it for me?" MPSA believes that local government, institutions closest to the people, must eradicate corruption and the perception of corruption in order to restore confidence.
You cannot get more local than district school boards. Throughout Long Island, the taxing power of school boards affects every family. While school boards tout concern for "the children", their draconian tax levies have devastated many struggling residents who are beginning to question motives. Confidence can be restored only through a policy of total transparency.
The Manhasset School Board, having employed questionable tactics in the recent bond referendum, should lead the way. For starters, the Board should adopt the standards promoted by reform groups such as Citizens Union:
Individual Trustees and support organizations should disclose benefits above and beyond the basic $28,000-$29,000 annual per student expenditure for their children.
Individual Trustees and support organizations should disclose if they or their relatives receive benefits unavailable to other residents.
Individual Trustees and support organizations should disclose if they have successfully protested their property taxes thereby increasing other residents' taxes.
School Board President Regina Rule should disclose the bidding process or lack thereof in selecting contractors and vendors for school projects.
School Administrators should disclose the ramifications of over estimating annual budgets and underestimating expenditures over multi-year periods.
The sorry state of affairs in Albany has cast a cloud over government at every level. Students and their families suffer when funds are diverted to special interests. It is time for plain, unembellished transparency.
Meeting Date: 01/14/2015
WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?
The letter of the law decrees that NYS School Boards maintain a neutral stance in financial referenda. The spirit of the law dictates School Boards represent all members of the community. Notwithstanding, School Board President Regina Rule, through her silence, has tacitly approved the demonization of residents and organizations that oppose her management of school finances.
By encouraging their acolytes and acolyte organizations such as PASS to dismiss and demean opposition, the School Board supports those who would benefit from excessive spending: those engaged in the construction industry; those seeking political positions; those who would shift their own financial responsibilities to their overburdened neighbors while feigning moral superiority. Of course, the Administrator and Teacher Unions reap the greatest reward from the School Board's financial policies.
MPSA will investigate and report on the School Board's clique of beneficiaries who hide behind "the children" but really espouse a philosophy best expressed as "what's in it for me?"
Meeting Date: 12/17/2014
School Board Polarizes Community
Missing from the self-congratulatory, attaboy letters in the Manhasset Press (December 10, 2014) was an e-mail that only MPSA received. Below is an excerpt:
"For some of us, such as me, money is a major issue. School taxes are the largest increasing item in my budget/living expenses. The general tax is the next largest. Together they take almost half of my Social Security income, that is, the money I am supposed to live on (a 75-year old whose family & I have been paying these taxes for years). I do not like to see our hard-earned tax money spent unnecessarily on "frills". My vote did not count."
Unfortunately, our neighbor is right. Despite a law that requires a School Board to be an honest broker, represent all segments of the community and maintain a neutral stance in various financial issues, School Board President Regina Rule, her trustees, administrators and satellite organizations pulled all the stops in securing passage of a recent bond referendum. Many of the School Board President's supporters, including those with children in the school district, are dismayed by polarizing political tactics that have threatened the financial security of our most vulnerable homeowners, our senior citizens.
The Board's political machine demeaned opposition with comments such as, "if they can't afford it, they should move" or "it's for the children" or "we support education". The comments are designed to elevate their position and lower the opposition: a self righteous, clever tactic that successfully funds their excessive "frills" and places their own financial responsibilities on the backs of others such as our neighbor. Their political machine displays an entitlement attitude that borders on moral bankruptcy.
Meeting Date: 12/08/2014
SCHOOL BOARD VOTE MANIPULATION PROMOTES COMMUNITY DISCORD
MPSA prides itself on drafting coherent factual presentations that generate intelligent discourse on school matters. As a result, we receive many emails from residents who not only appreciate our informed viewpoint but also appreciate the opportunity to express their own opinions. For example, we received an email from a long- time resident who was concerned that she would lose her New York State rebate if the bond were approved. As is our custom, MPSA shared her concern with the community.
So you can imagine our chagrin when we received a contemptuous response from a Manhasset Newcomer that was remarkable for its level of arrogance and incivility. She wrote:
"That is so pathetic! Perhaps your supporters should consider residing in a community that is more suited to their means."
The Newcomer's tone and attitude exposed her ignorance of Manhasset residents who have deep roots in our community. Being a Newcomer to Manhasset, she may not have understood that money is not always the issue and her neighbors' hesitation to meet her demands may have less to do with money and more to do with the School Board's choice of brick and mortar over improving academics.
MPSA shares this regrettable episode with our supporters not because we want to embarrass a person who has demonstrated a lack of decorum, poor taste and inappropriate behavior but because this Newcomer is indicative of a culture of contempt: contempt fostered by the School Board under the leadership of School Board President Regina Rule and carried out by her acolytes, some of whom may have serious conflicts of interest.
The culture of contempt was manifested when School Board President Rule conveniently closed Manhasset Schools on the day of the bond vote which enabled the pro forma "Yes Vote". Class mothers were directed to telephone parents and recite a prepared script designed to bring out the "Yes Vote". Children were given fliers that encouraged the "Yes Vote". Meanwhile, residents without children in the school system were ignored and only perfunctorily informed of the bond despite a law which dictates that the School Board act as an "honest broker". The law as well as residents without children in the school were treated with contempt.
Sadly, the Newcomer only mirrors the School Board's contempt towards the majority of the community. Rest assured MPSA will continue our mission to speak for the Others.
Meeting Date: 12/04/2014
MPSA thanks those who took a stand for Academics and Fiscal Responsibility
MPSA's mission is simple: ensure that the School Board focuses on students' academics and taxpayers' wallets. MPSA will continue to inform the community of School Board actions that compromise and/or jeopardize our mission, particularly when the School Board withholds and distorts information from homeowners.
MPSA thanks those voters who took a stand for academics and fiscal responsibility on December 3.
Meeting Date: 11/29/2014
A Manhasset Resident Responds
I support your practical approach to school board governance and hope the School board is listening. It seems that both MPSA and the School Board want to help the children, but in different ways and this $22.6 million dollar bond epitomizes the difference. MPSA's approach improves academics at no cost, while the school board's $22.6 million spending has no effect on academics.
Your approach is so common sense. I like your idea of making course curriculum a top priority. Why not review the top competitive school curricula such as Jericho and Bronx Science and hire the best of the best teachers. Why shouldn't we have classes like Mandarin Chinese, AP Music Theory, AP Computer Science, and much more. Adding academic challenging courses cost nothing. .
Instead the School Board wants to spend $22.6 million, half of which is to house twenty administrators. It is foolish and an embarrassment to the hard working homeowners that will paying off the bond for the next 20 years. The office building will not improve academics. What is wrong with the School Board? .
Homeowners should vote NO and then ask the School Board to offer a new plan that benefits the children.
Meeting Date: 11/30/2014
MPSA PROVIDES FACTS AND STATISTICS TO SUBSTANTIATE A NO VOTE
A respectable School Board functions as an honest broker. It attempts to reconcile various interest groups through dissemination of factual data so residents can arrive at an informed consensus and vote intelligently. It is a violation of public trust and New York law when a Board actively promotes a bond or supports acolyte surrogate groups who promote bonds (Phillips v Maurer, NY, 1986) or even gives the "appearance of impropriety"; such as no bid contracts or omitting basic information regarding the impact of a new administration building.
Furthermore, a respectable School Board encourages Voter turnout so the will of the entire community can be heard. Unfortunately, the Manhasset School Board has attempted to minimize the No Vote turnout by scheduling a vote on December 3rd when many homeowners will face inclement weather which may diminish their numbers at the polling booths. Not satisfied with a December vote, now we are learn the District will not send Voter Notification Notices to homeowners: notifications which are required by law for the annual budget vote. Decency demands notifications should be sent out for a bond which will pierce the tax cap for 20 years. Through their actions, it appears the Board has violated public trust and has demonstrated a lack of respect toward the community.
It is essential, that our email be forwarded to all family, friends and neighbors to spread the word for the December 3rd Vote. If you prefer send MPSA their email address and we will forward relevant information that they should consider before voting.
Below summarizes our five reasons to vote NO.
1) The School enrollment projections will not increase but rather will decrease, anywhere from 11% to 30%, according to the most recent and official population study according to the Nassau County Comptroller's Office. Based on the current seating capacity of 3,600, it is estimated, at a maximum, only 80% of seating capacity will be utilized.
2) The proposed construction of an administration building not only separates administrators from students, but is a potential dangerous environmental hazard which can last for years.
3) The $22.6 million bond prioritizes brick and mortar over improving academic subjects.
4) The $22.6 million bond includes money for maintenance and repairs which should be funded within the tax cap and raises the question of how was $30 million in padded budgets spent.
5) The Board's marketing and promotion of the capital projects is an insult to the intelligence of informed residents.
Meeting Date: 11/25/2014
REASON NUMBER 4 TO VOTE NO ON THE $22.6 MILLION BOND
MPSA has been an advocate for prioritizing funding to promote academic excellence. So it piqued our interest when a recent Manhasset report described significant course curriculum inadequacies in academic subjects, specifically, Math, Business, English, and World Languages (including Mandarin).
In 2012, the District had an opportunity to address the problem of academic inadequacy through the institution of a viable Teacher Evaluation Plan. Most parents and educators would agree that motivated, intelligent and creative teachers trump room renovations and administration buildings and a viable Teacher Evaluation Plan would result in the kind of teacher that would make academics soar. One would expect an effective evaluation plan set a high standard but the District rated every educator in Manhasset as either effective or highly effective. A standard that rates everyone perfect is no standard. The District passed every teacher but failed the community when it had a chance to improve academics.
Instead of soaring academics, we get is a $22.6 million capital project which includes monies for an administration building to house 20 administrators; room renovations for art, music and science programs and numerous repairs and maintenance projects, which should have been funded within the 2% tax cap.
VOTE NO ON THE BOND, DECEMBER 3, 2014, HS GYM 6:30AM-10:00 PM
Meeting Date: 11/24/2014
More Responses from Manhasset Residents
MPSA has received numerous responses from residents. Below are some excerpts from the many emails we have received:
You guys are amazing-you have my vote. Too bad there's a Manhasset inner circle who follow their leader school board president Regina Rule, and could care less about facts and stats. Their life is the inner circle. Who knows, maybe this time a light bulb will go off and they'll see the light.
As a newcomer to Manhasset, I thought I was buying into a school that supported academics and now I am asked to support a 22 million dollar bond that includes toilets, water fountains, cafeteria staff and an administration building.
It is going to get from bad to worse, the situation where the unions demand more and school boards give more and taxpayers pay more is unsustainable. Do the math.
Manhasset has a gym teacher who makes $180,000 and can retire on most of it and doesn't have to worry about lay offs and even has the summers off. I am voting no.
The District has not managed its tax cap well and has now put the community in a position of having to issue $20 million of debt to maintain the upper boundaries of the tax cap limit.
I wonder if they have focus groups with parents on how to improve Academics, reduce costs etc. They spend all their efforts selling the Budget every year & selling the Bond
Thank you. I agree with all you write. I read the letters in the Press and found them to be civil but not convincing. One exception, a ranting diatribe from the Pass organization. Such invective from someone who says he supports the children.
Homeowners should know that the school board president decides how to spend hundreds of million dollars which is doled out in construction contracts and retiree benefits demanded by unions. Homeowners have no say other than to vote no
Meeting Date: 11/23/2014
REASON NUMBER THREE TO VOTE NO ON THE BOND,
DECEMBER 3, 2014, HS GYM 6:30AM-10:00 PM
SCHOOL BOARD MORTGAGING OUR FUTURE ON NON-ACADEMIC SPENDING
The School District's growing debt/liabilities prompted Moody’s credit agency to downgrade the credit worthiness of the District with the comment, “outlook is negative”. State regulators also took exception to the amount of debt/liabilities and labeled the Manhasset School District as “under financial stress". In a nut shell, the School Board spends more than it takes in; causing the School District to borrow the difference. MPSA, Moody's and State Regulators have sounded the alarm: the School District must reduce debt/liabilities, not increase spending by mortgaging our future with a $22.6 million bond.The proposed bond is a blatant continuation of the Board's theme, "spend more than what we take in and borrow the rest".
MPSA PRESENTS FIVE FINANCIAL REASONS TO VOTE NO
1. The vote is not a line item vote. You cannot vote yes for the cafeterias and no for an administration building that houses 20 administrators. While MPSA supports many line items that benefit children we can not support a free standing administration building that will separate the Superintendent and staff from faculty and students.
2. The capital project includes ordinary and routine maintenance expenses that should be funded through the annual budget process. By bundling ordinary repairs and maintenance into a bond, the District incurs additional expensive architectural and engineering fees.
3. After auditing the School District's latest financial statements, dated June 30, 2014, MPSA has found $3,000,000 of surpluses generated this year. As you may recall MPSA has alleged the School Board systematically engaged in budget padding that raised approximately $30,000,000 over the past 10 years: $30,000,000 that would have eliminated the need for a $22.6 million bond.
4. The School District continually defers payments in an attempt to diminish and hide real costs from homeowners. By spreading the cost of the $22.6 million bond over 20 years, the School Board has blunted the impact of the bond/mortgage. Moody’s credit agency, on the other hand, rightly recognizes the full $22.6 million debt as a liability immediately. But the bond is only one example of fiscal irresponsibility. The Board admitted it failed to pay its annual pension liability, on time, in full. Finally, the $22.6 million bond debt and the pension liability is in addition to $100,000,000 in unfunded retiree healthcare obligations looming in our future; a future that will hold residents accountable long after the current administration has retired.
5. MPSA believes if the bond is approved, money generated by annual 2% budget increases will be freed up to give raises and perks to teachers and administrators. Manhasset currently is home to the $180,000 gym teacher and the retiree whose $122,000 pension is guaranteed by you, the taxpayer. Bonding effectively negates the 2% tax cap, because bonded projects are exempt from the cap.
MPSA RECOMMENDS A NO VOTE ON DECEMBER 3, 2014.
A NO VOTE WILL FORCE THE SCHOOL BOARD TO PROPOSE
A COUNTER CAPITAL BUDGET FOR CHILDREN
Meeting Date: 11/20/2014
Manhasset Resident Response
MPSA’s recent message urging the school board to prioritize academic curriculum over a free standing administration building and an arts program has generated residents' responses." Below is one such response.
I'd like to respond as well. It is crazy that the entire community isn't up in arms about this bond.
It is a way to accomplish an agenda while avoiding the tax cap. Secondly, while Manhasset does have talented musicians, the majority of them excelled long before entering grammar school, so these children, say 95% of them will continue to excel through their private lessons.
The same holds true for art. Should we fund an expansion for a 5% minority? The answer for a public school is clearly no.
Why isn't anyone demanding a better language arts program where children are taught grammar every year? The majority of our children are incapable of recognizing when a noun acts like an adjective or when an adjective acts like an adverb. Forget about being able to differentiate between auxiliary verbs, linking verbs, transitive and intransitive verbs etc. I always knew the district was lacking in this respect, but I didn't realize to what extent until my child left the district at the end of 8th grade and began HS at a private, Catholic School.
The Board has not yet answered the question of shrinking enrollment in the years to come.
I personally would prefer that my tax dollars not be spent constructing lavish office space for Charlie to enjoy. If you want a state of the art music/art program, send your child to private school. That money should be spent enhancing the core curriculum that will benefit the entire student body. I don't know about you, but being able to write cohesively and intelligently without grammatical mistakes is much more important than music and art and a nice offices for support staff!
Meeting Date: 11/13/2014
Residents have weighed in on the proposed Administration Building.
Below are some comments.
Before I retired, for over twenty years, I managed school construction conversions, additions, renovations, and new buildings. In the above capacity I was employed in both the public and private sector.
I also have overseen oil and gasoline fuel tank replacements. Unless the gasoline tanks are leaking or the pump/ safety systems are outdated and no longer code compliant it would make little sense to suffer the large expense to replace the tanks, piping, pumps and safety, systems.
Numbers of this magnitude are somewhat of an abstraction for most people. When you begin to think about how many ways $22.6M could be used
(I mean seriously do people understand what kind of building you can build for $10M -enormous, and MHS already owns the land), it becomes more apparent how enormous and out of proportion these figures are. Unfortunately most homeowners aren't dealing with commercial construction projects, so they don't recognize how big these numbers are relative to the needs of the High School. Selling the bond offering to residents on the basis of the annual increase in property tax completely distracts from the absolute amount of debt each household will have a share of.
Meeting Date: 11/12/2014
Below is a recent e-mail regarding the $22.6 Million Bond
MPSA deserves credit for notifying the community of demographic software that may project a 10% decrease in student enrollment. Even Dino Moshova and his PASS organization, usually reliable supporters of the school administration, has conceded that the district will experience declining enrollment.
Since the school board may not notify voters of the major blunder, you should notify voters ASAP of this school board blunder. They seem to be in no hurry to announce a correction.
I support your recommendation to vote no.
Meeting Date: 11/10/2014
MPSA URGES A NO VOTE ON $22.6 MILLION CAPITAL PROJECT
Over the next few weeks, MPSA will outline the rationale for a No Vote
A NO vote will send the message to the School Board that academics should be prioritized over administrative offices. Although bond supporters have attempted to play down the construction of a free standing administration building, the District Architect's facilities evaluation document, (May 2014, page 24) tells a different story. The Architect has outlined the enormous task of converting the bus garage into an administration building as follows:
a. Music Room Renovation-Existing 2nd floor
b. Art Room Renovation-Relocate to 3rd floor
c. Bus garage conversion -this work would involve extensive demolition to existing spaces prior to construction and reconfiguration to achieve desired needs of the District. This interior work will include but not be limited to carpentry replacement of windows and existing roofing, removal of overhead doors and infill of openings with masonry and windows, ventilation, plumbing, electrical and data:
d. New 1500 square-foot Grounds Storage Building
e. Bus Garage Drain and Sanitary System Soil Remediation
f. Existing High School Building-Sanitary System Replacement. The existing system is located in the southwest corner of the campus
g. Installation of a new Sanitary System- Bus Garage
h. Removal of existing Gas Pumps and Tanks
i. Exterior Site Restoration and Asphalt Repair
j. Reinforce incoming electrical service to Bus Garage
k. Gas Tank and Fueling Station – installation of new gas pumps and tanks adjacent to new Maintenance Facility (4000 gallon Gas Tank and 10,000 gallon Diesel Tank)
Total project cost $9,972,576 (Facilities Evaluation, May 21, 2014, page 24)
The Architect’s Work Scope indicates that approximately half of the proposed $22.6 Million Capital Project will be spent, not on academics but on constructing the new, free standing administration building for 20 Administrators. MPSA opposes not only the extravagance of a luxurious free standing administration building that separates Administrators from High School activities and students, but also opposes the multi- year project on the grounds that converting a bus garage into an administration building has the potential to be environmentally dangerous and disruptive to students.
Meeting Date: 11/05/2014
MPSA REQUESTS NYS AUDIT OF MANHASSET SCHOOL DISTRICT
On October 10, 2014, the Manhasset School Superintendent, the School Board's representative, emailed residents, "Please be mindful of distinguishing information that is factual and accurate from information that is inaccurate or, frankly, fictional". MPSA agrees and has requested that the New York State Comptroller's Office audit the District to determine the accuracy of their public communications.
MPSA alleges that the Manhasset School Board issued false and misleading statements when they and/or their surrogates asserted that the $22.6 million dollar bond, scheduled for a December 3, 2014 referendum, is necessary to expand infrastructure for a "continued large enrollment through 2020 and beyond, yet student classroom spaces have not changed."
It appears the School Board calculated student enrollment projections in-house instead of engaging an independent third party. The Board has not disclosed why they changed from customary third party contractors to in-house administrators, but some homeowners believe that third party student projection results may not have supported the Board's claim of continued student enrollment growth beyond 2020. MPSA, utilizing independent third party demographic projections, the "Cornell Program on Applied Demographics", projects 3,023 students in the year 2022; 10% less than the current enrollment.
The School Board stated, “student classroom spaces have not changed” but the Board knew that classroom capacity was expanded in the mid 1990's, when they proposed and residents passed a $21.5 million dollar bond, specifically to expand classroom space. The expanded classroom space brought maximum student capacity to approximately 3,600 students, which far exceeds the current enrollment of 3,290, as reported to Albany for the year ending 2013.
In regard to student projections and classroom capacity, the evidence suggests the District is in violation of School Policy #1150 which states, "The Superintendent shall ensure that any document, newsletter, advertisement or other communication prepared and/or distributed at District expense shall be factual in nature to the best of his/her knowledge, and shall not exhort District voters to vote to approve or disapprove any matter submitted for voter approval."
The Manhasset School District is no stranger to the New York State Comptroller's Office. A prior audit report labeled, “Audit finds management problems at Manhasset Schools”, cited concerns about poor controls, expense reimbursements and missing equipment. MPSA believes the controversy surrounding the current proposed $22.6 million bond referendum, necessitates another Comptroller review to determine the veracity of the District's public communication and the District's alleged attempts to garner voter approval for the bond referendum. Furthermore, the Comptroller's Office should review the Manhasset School District's systematic overstated budget expenses and understated revenues which have generated surpluses in the $25,000,000-$30,000,000 range: surpluses that could have been spent to enhance student programs.
Meeting Date: 10/26/2014
MPSA Slams School Board's Student Enrollment Projections
In recent months, the Manhasset School Board has proposed a $22.6 million dollar capital project which includes the construction of a luxurious free standing administration headquarters for 20 administrators. In an effort to promote and market their bond, it appears the School Board not only inflated projected student enrollment but also under estimated available classroom space. A recent School Board press release stated, "Projections show continued large enrollment through 2020 and beyond, yet student classroom spaces have not changed". MPSA believes that not only will classroom enrollment decline but classroom space has increased.
In regard to classroom space, the School Board either knew or should have known classroom capacity was expanded in the mid 1990's, as they, as Board Members, authorized a $21.5 million dollar bond referendum that was approved by voters specifically to expand classroom space. The expanded classrooms brought maximum student capacity to approximately 3,600 students, which far exceeds the current enrollment of 3,290 as reported to Albany for the year ending 2013. Further, the current capacity of 3,600 students exceeds the School Board's projected future enrollment through the decade.
In regard to enrollment projections, the School Board allowed enrollment projections to be calculated in-house by administrators, when common sense dictates that a $22.6 million dollar project requires hiring an independent professional consulting firm, specializing in enrollment projection software. The School Board either knew or should have known that readily available software exists; "Student Demographic Enrollment Projection Software" and that such software would have projected opposite results than the in-house projections.
MPSA used such software, namely the "Cornell Program on Applied Demographics" (See the Manhasset Projections )
to determine Manhasset's projected enrollment and noted under "robust" assumptions, the district will have 3,023 students in the year 2022, some 10% less than the current enrollment.
MPSA as the community's grassroots organization dedicated to ensuring all classroom academic activities are adequately funded while spending is maintained within the 2% tax cap, will report its findings to the NYS Comptroller Office, which oversees the fiscal affairs of the School District to ensure taxpayer's expectations are being met.
Meeting Date: 10/17/2014
MPSA is alleging "Enrollment Projections" may be inflated and consequently,
distorts the projected enrollment.
Further, we are alleging the School Board should have known the
projected enrollment was misleading.
We are asking Regina Rule, School Board President and Chief Fiscal Officer, to
investigate these allegations before moving forward with a bond vote, since
substantially all major capital projects were predicated on enrollment growth
that may not materialize.
As a matter of background, MPSA obtained from the NYS Department of Education
(Albany) the official enrollment statistics for the past several years and
analyzed the enrollment trends. Based on our observation and confirmed by
certain demographic software, specifically designed to project enrollment
trends, the District's enrollment will decrease by approximately 7% or
200 students, not increase, as alleged by the administration. The projected
decrease in student enrollment, in the very near future, contradicts the school
administration's forecast that enrollment will grow by 200.
In closing, two points: 1) similar school districts such as Roslyn, Herrick's
and Garden City are also forecasting decreased enrollment, which is the trend
and 2) it appears the school district's enrollment projections were prepared
internally and not by an independent and unbiased consulting firm.
As such, self-serving enrollment assumptions may have been used to increase the projected enrollment numbers.
Meeting Date: 10/10/2014
MANHASSET SCHOOL DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION BUILDING PROPOSAL
MPSA was certainly pleased to learn at the October 2, 2014 School Board meeting that the $18-22 million Aquatic Center is no longer under consideration. While we recognize and respect the importance of a swimming pool to the swim team, MPSA strongly opposed the Aquatic Center, since the costly funds to construct and operate the Aquatic Center would be taken from academic programs that benefit all students. MPSA believes the School Board showed poor judgment in authorizing an architectural firm, paid by the taxpayers, to consider and publish in its Facilities Evaluation document, dated May 21, 2014, an aquatic center as a viable option.
However, to our disappointment the New Administration Building is going full steam ahead at a price tag that may exceed $10 million dollars. The reason for the new building, provided by the Administration, as reported in the September 26, 2014 Manhasset Times is to "ease cramping". MPSA urges the community to oppose the School Board's plan to construct a luxurious, freestanding Administration Building to house the Superintendent and his staff of approximately 20 employees. The School Board is tight lipped on the actual construction cost and is talking cost in general terms. MPSA estimated the cost in the $10 million dollar range or approximately $500,000 per staff employee. MPSA believes there is zero community support for this project, in particular for parents with school age children since the funds to construct and operate such a colossal infrastructure will jeopardize funds available for the children's academics.
In closing, MPSA is a grass-roots community organization focused on academics; and believes within the annual 2% tax cap increase, adequate funds are available to provide Manhasset Students with a world class education. We remind homeowners the District while operating within the 2% tax cap, has achieved one of its all-time highest high school rankings by US World News. As such, MPSA believes the key is not how much you raise taxes, nor how luxurious and superficial the administration building may appear- but more importantly how the money is spent, namely towards benefiting the children.
Meeting Date: 10/05/2014
NEW LUXURIOUS FREE STANDING SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION BUILDING
The Manhasset School Administration and their walking tour committee may be floating a $25 million bond that has very little to do with education and more to do with a luxury freestanding administration building, in the opinion of MPSA.
Although the walking tour committee had included a wish list of building proposals, in their original "Facilities Evaluation" document, the community's reaction forced the administration and their walking tour committee to pare down some of their more outlandish proposals, such as an aquatic center. However their core proposal remains in the plan: the conversion of the bus garage into a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art administration building with all the amenities for Administrators. .
The plan include, but is not limited to a new board room (1120 square feet), new human resources area (820 sf), new large and small conference rooms (2048 sf), office space (4296 sf) for a total of 6766 square feet, excluding the men and women toilets. The total building area is +/-9508 square feet. The building will be ground level for ease of accessibility with ample parking spaces for Administrators. (See or request a copy of "Manhasset 2020, Commitment to On-Going Long Term Facilities Planning/ Presentation to the Board of Education Oct.2, 2014", page 14) .
The cost for the new Administration Building is approximate, since some of the costs are bundled with the other projects included in the bond, but MPSA estimates a minimum of $10 million because of unusual costs associated with converting a bus garage into a free standing administration building. Costs include soil remediation, installation of a new sanitary system, removal of gas pumps, storage tanks and bus garage drain. Other costs include, but are not limited to carpentry, plumbing, roof removal, window replacement, masonry, ventilation and electrical. The cost of simply demolishing the bus garage and building a 1500 sf storage building is $812,000. (See or request a copy of Facilities Evaluation 5/21/14, page 23-27).
As the administration and walking tour committee initiate their "educational and informational marketing campaign", we urge residents to raise questions regarding the new administration building. Residents may also want to ask about the 18% soft costs included in the bond for each project and the 4% costs per year for 5-7 years included in the bond for rough estimating. (See Facilities Evaluation 5/21/14, page 3).
Meeting Date: 10/01/2014
The Manhasset School District has proposed a $25 million bond which, if passed, would effectively gut the tax cap for 20 years. The District intends to seek a bond, essentially a mortgage, for repairs, maintenance and renovations which they have labeled "capital projects". The initial proposal as outlined in the Architect's "Facilities Evaluation, 5/21/14" document included:
Reconstructing toilets which apparently have not been regularly repaired.
Replacing gymnasium curtains, pads and grills which apparently have not been regularly maintained or replaced.
Renovating and expanding cafeterias, science and art classrooms, notwithstanding a projected increase of less than 100 students by 2019.
Constructing or renovating the existing bus garage as a free standing Administration Building with several options including classrooms or aquatic center
The $25 million price tag of the various "capital projects" has prompted residents to ask questions?
1. Since the architectural company selected to oversee the "capital projects" in the 2007 bond is the same architectural company chosen to oversee the "capital projects" in the 2014 proposed bond, the question arises, how was the architectural company chosen?
2. Did either the Manhasset School District or BOCES seek competitive bids before hiring the Architect?
3. Did the District seek competitive bids for repairs, maintenance and renovations, e.g. repairing toilets, buying gym curtains or asphalt paving, before bundling the projects into a bond which incurs architectural and engineering costs?
4. Did the Architect accompany the 15 members of the Manhasset Long Term Facilities Planning Committee on their "walking tour" and assist them in selecting various projects to be included in the bond proposal?
5. Does the Architect get paid a fixed fee, or a percentage of each project's cost, or both?
6. Can the District explain the 18% in "soft costs" which has been added to each project?
7. Can the District explain the 4% per year added to the bond "for rough estimates"?
8.. Why would the District consider moving and expanding Administrative Offices out of the High School when there is a projected increase of less than 100 students by 2019?
9. Considering the District has nearly a $90 million budget and has inflated school budgets by $30 million over a ten year period, why was the District unable to fund repairs and maintenance on an on-going basis?
There seems to be a lack of leadership and a pattern of fiscal irresponsibility
in the Manhasset School District.
While residents are asked to pay $175,000 in Salary
(http://seethroughny.net/schools/) plus another 30% in benefits for one gym teacher, basic repairs and maintenance are ignored until they can be bundled into a bond, effectively mortgaging our future. Before asking residents to approve a $25 million bond that will pierce the tax cap for 20 years, serious residents deserve serious answers to their very serious questions.
Meeting Date: 09/24/2014
School Board’s Capital Plan Announcement was Deceptive
The September 12, 2014 Manhasset Times headlines, with respect to the Capital Bond, read “Plans focus on science, arts, cafeteria space upgrades”. However, the article made no mention of the $18,000,000-$22,000,000 “Free Standing Administration Building and Aquatic Center” the School Board is considering, as documented in a report obtained by MPSA. Further, the additional cost of the Capital Plan will cause annual spending per student to approximate $30,000-approximately three to four times the cost of State University annual tuition.
MPSA believes the School Board is purposely touting the “science spending” to appeal to voters that the $26 million capital plan is about academics. However, in fact the science spending is less than 15% of all projects being considered. Further, 100% of the science spending is for infrastructure (demolition, ventilation, electrical, etc.) and 0% will be spent on lab enhancement and other equipment that will improve student academics.
MPSA has grown readership significantly over the past eight years, becoming Manhasset’s largest independent voice on educational fiscal and academic affairs. Our success is based on homeowners looking to MPSA for information the School Board is challenged to report and/or accept responsibility for misgivings. MPSA needs your help. MPSA is reaching out to the community to expand its mailing list. We are asking you to forward to MPSA email addresses of individuals and/or groups that may be interested in receiving our periodic updates. We will send an invite to become part of our mailing list. All contact with MPSA is strictly confidential.
Together, we can help the School Board amend their existing Capital Plan to focus on academics and keep spending within the 2% tax cap.
Meeting Date: 09/19/2014
Concern over $25 Million Bond
Manhasset Residents have expressed concern regarding the School District's $25 million bond proposal which will undermine the tax cap, since the funding for the bond is an expense in addition to normal tax cap. Further, the capital program has spun out-of-control to now consider an Aquatic Center, and a new dedicated Administrative Building to house the superintendent and his staff-both of which have nothing to do with student academics. In short, MPSA believes only a fraction of the $25 million planned spending will improve academics.
Below is one of the many letters MPSA has received from residents on the issue
Sent to: Charlie Cardillo and Regina Rule
Re: The Proposed $25,000,000 Bond for School Facilities
September 15, 2014
Upon learning about the proposed $25 million bond for upgrading the three Manhasset school facilities, it is our opinion that dollars spent on larger rooms in science and the arts, air conditioning in the cafeterias, and two sports venues is an imprudent use of our taxpayer dollars, especially in light of the demographic studies which forecast diminishing student population, based on the current number of homes within Manhasset.
We feel that we have been deceived by the 2% tax cap. The school budget should include dollars allocated for school property repairs and renovations. We believe that if $1,000,000 were in the school budget for these purposes each year, the school would have $20,000,000 over 20 years without the need for issuance of bonds.
We are aware that 46 additional homes will be built on the property of the former
St. Ignatius retreat house, which is in our school district. Although this development will most likely increase the student population somewhat, it will also increase the tax base, with at least $500,000 going toward school taxes, which can fund necessary projects.
To specifically address the proposal to enlarge science rooms, for example, we believe better quality teachers are necessary for success, not larger rooms. Quality teachers create great schools, not wider walls and floors.
One creative idea which can address school crowding at the secondary school level is "split sessions". Middle-school students can attend school during periods 1 - 9 (approximately 8:00 to 3:00) while high schools students can attend school periods 3 - 11 (approximately 9:30 to 4:30). Not only would there be an abundance of space during 4 periods each day for classes to "spread out", but this would also free up field space for sports teams - with sports beginning at 3:10 for middle school and perhaps at 4:40 for high school. As for high school students, research has shown that teens learn better when school starts later, which would be an additional bonus of their starting classes at 9:30. Teachers would work the same number of hours during two "shifts".
Consider the benefits split-sessions would bring to the cafeteria. Middle school students could have their lunch 4th, and 5th periods, and high school students could have their lunch 6th, 7th and 8th periods. Overcrowding, noise, long-lines, stress and overheating would be alleviated in the cafeteria, and there would be very little need to install expensive air conditioning.
One more bonus of "split-sessions" at the secondary school - perhaps the middle school will feel more like a separate middle school when those students start the day without sharing the halls with high school students.
Logistics can be worked out with school buses. This would be much less expensive and more flexible than permanently remodeling the secondary school. "Split-sessions" would also address the overcrowded and unsafe driving and pedestrian conditions during drop-offs and pick-ups. Perhaps bus service for high school students can be limited to 1.25 miles or more from the school, while elementary school children bus distances remain the same.
Logistics can also be worked out with sports teams. Since we will have more available fields with two sessions, more high school teams can be invited to our fields due to our later starting time of 4:40. With some ingenuity, these ideas can work.
With regard to renovating Memorial Field and the tennis courts with money from the proposed $25,000,000 bond, we suggest that donations raised through the Booster Club and our athletic organizations be used to fund these projects, not additional taxes through a bond.
With regard to the fine arts rooms (music and art) being expanded as part of the bond, we believe that these expansions are not sorely needed. Our students have continually performed strongly in these areas in their current facilities without consequence.
There are creative ideas that can be implemented without issuing a $25,000,000 bond.
Our taxes already include previously issued bonds from 2008, among others. We say enough layering of taxes upon taxes. It's also interesting to note that once we repay our bonds, our taxes never fall.
Meeting Date: 09/13/2014
The Manhasset School Dist announces a $25 Million Bond
MPSA thought Manhasset residents would be interested in a recent "Newsday" Letter to the Editor, published in response to a Newsday article "Hurting in the Burbs" (Newsday, Sept. 4). Apparently, School Districts around Long Island have found a way to undermine the tax cap. They are proposing District-wide bonds and, in addition, they have even prevailed upon the NYS legislature to propose a State-wide $2 billion bond referendum. In keeping with the craze, the Manhasset School District is proposing a $25 million District bond for repair, maintenance and enrichment programs.
Letter to the Editor:
This November, we will vote to elect a governor and all 213 members of the State Legislature. Voters who care about tax relief should know about a very important vote taken by the legislature during its most recent session: the approval of a voter referendum called the Smart Schools Bond Act. It is a $2-billion blank check to school districts to pay for technology and connectivity.
Long Island school districts have a history of excessive use of bonding, which is essentially a mortgage backed by the taxes on property owners. Long Island schools are readying a number of new bond proposals to get around the property tax cap now in place. Often blatantly promoted, they have turned into a political con game perpetrated on taxpayers.
If the bonds are approved, other money can be freed up to give raises and perks to teachers and administrators. Bonding effectively negates the tax cap, because bonded projects are exempt from the cap.
There should be plenty of money and no need for additional debt issuance, certainly not for new classroom space, considering the Island's declining enrollments.
Andrea Vecchio, East Islip
Meeting Date: 09/05/2014
A FLAWED TEACHER EVALUATION PLAN
As reported in Newsday (August 29, 2014), more than 97% of Long Island teachers are "effective" or "highly effective" and less than 3% are "developing or "ineffective". Most people intuitively understand that an Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) in which every teacher is rated "effective" or "highly effective" is a process that has been watered down into a meaningless exercise.
Case in point, all 251 teachers in the Manhasset School District were rated either "highly effective" or "effective". As such, the Manhasset evaluation process deserves a second look. Introduced in 2011with Union approval, much fanfare and great expense to the taxpayer, the evaluation process is based on rubrics, or standards which, along with other criteria, determine a teacher's rating. The standards are vague and open to interpretation so if a teacher Is rated as "developing" or "ineffective", a committee, which includes the union representative, must decide if the rating is justified. The rating can easily be reversed at this point, but in the unlikely event the employee actually emerges from the committee and is still rated "ineffective" or "developing", a Teacher Improvement Plan (TIP) is specifically developed and the incompetent employee has another year to "improve" in the classroom and another year to increase compensation, after which the process may begin again.
With flawed evaluation plans throughout Long Island, the outcome was inevitable from the start; more than 97% of Long Island teachers are "effective" or "highly effective". Perhaps, parents should weigh in on these astounding results.
Meeting Date: 08/26/2014
Pursuant to the objectives of the "Office of the State Comptroller", MPSA is requesting that the State audit the School District to identify opportunities for improving School District operations and School Board Governance; in order to meet the expectations of the Manhasset taxpayers.
The letter to NYS follows.
To the State of New York Office of the State Comptroller-Division of Local Government and School Accountability
The taxpayers of Manhasset request an audit, similar to the recent examination of New Hyde Park-Garden City Union Free School District, in which, based on the audit, you found the District Officials consistently overestimated expenditures resulting in a tax burden that was greater than necessary.
We believe the Manhasset School District for the past ten years has systematically overstated budgeted expenses, understated revenues and used accruals to generate surpluses in the $25,000,000-$30,000,000 range. I am sure you will agree, overstated budgets lead to the possibility of School Boards funding projects unbeknownst to taxpayers and causing taxpayers to pay more school taxes than necessary.
As you may be aware, the annual budget is based on the prior year’s budget, as such once the annual budget is padded, each of the following years budget can also be readily padded. Additionally, once a budget is padded, School Officials can announce a lower tax levy increase than had the prior budget been based on actual results. Additionally, plugging the prior periods actual results with accruals results in under reporting the real surplus.
The Manhasset School District is no stranger to your office as your prior audit report was labeled “Audit finds Management problems at Manhasset Schools”. Your report Cites concerns about poor controls, improper expense reimbursements and missing equipment.” Since your last audit, we believe the Manhasset School District budget process has spun out of control-in particular regarding the annual budget and internal accounting controls.
As an example since your last audit, in a particular year the School District overstated expenses when compared to actuals by $1,875,000 , understated revenues by $1,708,000 and established an accrual as an actual expense for $965,000. In another year, the school district overstated expenses by $2,466,000 under estimated revenues by $2,236,000 and used an accrual as an actual expense for $2,303,000. In just two years, the School District generated over $10,000,000. As previously mentioned, once the $10,000,000 budget surplus is established the School Board can readily incorporate that amount into the following year’s budget.
Additionally fund reserves subsequent to your audit for employee benefits in aggregate of either $4,000,000 or $8,000,000 were continuously carried without merit and eventually utilized for reasons other than employee benefits.
The recent independent auditors report cited control breaches including but not limited to violating Real Property Tax Law #1318(excess funds of $474,095).
As you may be aware, as the School District announced to the media, “the School District does not have a spending problem”, although your own office labeled the School District as “Under Financial Stress”; Moody’s credit agency has recently downgraded the credit worthiness of the district and stated “outlook is negative”. Further, the school district is unable to fund its pension plan; the School District has approximately $100,000,000 of unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities and on top of the aforementioned the School District is attempting to float $30,000,000 of bonds for an "Aquatic Center", neglected past maintenance and repairs, and other non-essential items that most reasonable taxpayers would agree, do little, if anything, to improve the academic standards of the school district.
Meeting Date: 07/30/2014
STATE EXAMINER WARNS TAXPAYERS OF DECEPTIVE SCHOOL BOARD BUDGET PRACTICES
The Manhasset School District claims that over $30 million will be needed for school repairs and renovations. The District's remedy is a bond which will pierce the tax cap for twenty to thirty years since bond principal and interest are excluded from the tax cap. But before any bond is contemplated, MPSA, your community watchdog, calls for financial transparency. Taxpayers deserve a full accounting from the District.
MPSA, and now New York State Examiners, have uncovered a deceptive School Board budget process; a process that exaggerates expenses, understates revenues and results in a padded budget. As a result, when the District regularly announces a 2%, or less, tax increase within the tax cap, the real Manhasset School budget increase approximates 5% annually; significantly more than the cap. MPSA's own audit has discovered that, hidden in the hundred page Manhasset School District budget, are exaggerated expenses and understated revenues which have overtaxed homeowners by approximately $2,500,000 per year or $25,000,000 over the past ten years. The School Board claims they did not intentionally pad the budget, but through their audited financial statements, they have confirmed the amounts.
New York State Examiners are currently looking into the budget padding practice and so far have identified six Long Island School Districts, similar to Manhasset, that have misled taxpayers. State Examiners have warned residents that there is a "pattern of abuse" and School Boards “are raising taxes in excess of what’s absolutely necessary".
We trust the Manhasset School Board President and Chief Fiscal Officer, Regina Rule, will disclose and quantify to Manhasset homeowners the budget padding/surpluses for the past ten years. The School President should disclose the padding/surpluses before any redistribution, re-allocation or bond is considered .
As the School District gears up its $20 to $30 million bond campaign, the Board will claim that buildings are in disrepair as the result of a lack of funds. The truth is funds were always available in a $90 million budget but the School Board, not surprisingly, used the surpluses to fund personnel compensation.
The Manhasset School District began its bond campaign with a "walking tour" and will probably end it with the usual refrain, " it's for the children". However, before residents allow the District to float a $30 million bond that will pierce the tax cap for the next 20 to 30 years, long after the current administration is gone, serious people should demand answers to serious questions regarding the budget padding process and serious people should demand to know where $25 million in taxes was spent over the last ten years and why it was not spent on repairs and renovations.
Meeting Date: 07/03/2014
SCHOOL BOARD CONSIDERS PIERCING THE TAX CAP FOR 20 TO 30 YEARS
In 2012, many Manhasset residents were grateful when the 2% tax cap was enacted. It offered relief from relentless increases in school taxes that were often twice the inflation rate. Unfortunately, it was only a temporary reprieve. The Manhasset School Board has developed a plan that would undermine the 2% tax cap. The gambit involves floating bonds for school repair and renovation projects. Since bond debt is exempted from the tax cap, residents would be taxed at the school tax cap rate PLUS the interest and principal on a proposed $30.6 million bond for the next 20 to 30 years. The Board will have successfully pierced the tax cap for the next 20 to 30 years.
As a result of their "walking tour", a Manhasset School Board Committee has listed over 46 potential repair and renovation projects which include:
Convert bus garage for administrative offices or extra classroom space
Replace gymnasium curtains, wall pads and grills
Renovate science room
Purchase main office HVAC
Renovate music room
With a $88 million budget, residents may question why repairs and renovations must be funded through bonds. The answer is simple. The Manhasset School Board has opted to continue its fiscal profligacy by hiring more personnel, adding more programs and thereby spending most of their budget on personnel compensation: compensation extended automatically without an effective personnel evaluation process in place. As a result, when bathrooms need repair, or gym curtains need replacement, the Board reverts to piercing the cap by floating bonds, thereby incurring debt to be borne by residents for 20 to 30 years.
MPSA believes that a school board that practices fiscal discipline would anticipate and properly fund repair and renovation projects within the confines of the 2% tax cap. To do otherwise is fiscally irresponsible. To do otherwise is to support a union agenda over the overtaxed residents. To do otherwise is to insult the intelligence of all residents.
Meeting Date: 04/07/2014
THE 2014-2015 SCHOOL BUDGET IS A VICTORY FOR ALL MANHASSET RESIDENTS
Many Manhasset residents expressed gratitude to MPSA for encouraging the School Board to present a 2014-2015 budget within the tax cap. Over the years, MPSA has not hesitated to expose wasteful spending, salary increases based solely on seniority, and more importantly, bloated benefits, all of which have led to ever increasing school taxes. But this year, the fortuitous alignment of two important events convinced the School Board and the Unions to negotiate contracts that would facilitate a budget within the tax cap: MPSA exposed the School District's long practice of overestimating budgets and Governor Cuomo proposed a tax rebate for Districts that budget within the cap. As a result, the 2014-2015 Manhasset school budget is a victory for all residents, including MPSA, the School Board and the Unions who have finally recognized the limits of taxation.
Moving forward, the challenge is the facilitation and continuation of the tax cap. Although the Unions and the School Board have full power to negotiate contracts that provide quality education within the parameters of the tax cap, more must be done to ease the process.
On May 8, 2014 taxpayer reform advocates including Long Islanders for Educational Reform, Best 4 New York, The Center for Cost Effective Government and representatives from unions, and government will assemble at the Melville Marriott at 7PM to discuss New York State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick's Bill A8603. The Bill, if passed into law, would provide taxpayer protection and mandate relief from both the Triborough Amendment and defined benefit pensions.
The Triborough Amendment continues terms of a union contract even after a union contract has expired. The Amendment is a detriment to employee-employer contract negotiations because the employer is at a disadvantage when employees continue to receive salary step increases during negotiations. Bill 8603 would end salary step increases when a union contract expires thereby placing both employer and employee on an equal footing.
Public employee defined benefit pensions are guaranteed by the taxpayer. They provide fixed payments for life based on years of service and a final average salary. Bill A8603 would require future public sector employees to join a defined contribution pension plan, which is common in the private sector. The advantage
of defined contribution pensions is twofold: the taxpayer would no longer be the guarantor of public employee pensions and employees would be able to exit the retirement system with their retirement money intact, an advantage denied them under defined benefit pensions.
The tax cap has served a useful purpose by forcing school boards and unions to negotiate contracts that serve the public interest. Now it is time to take further steps: Triborough must go and defined benefit pensions must be replaced with defined contribution pensions. Perhaps the Manhasset District Legislative Committee will join the reformers at the Melville Marriott, 1350 Old Walt Whitman Road, Melville, Long Island, on May 8, 2014 at 7 PM. All residents are welcome.
Meeting Date: 03/02/2014
MPSA supports the Governor's initiative to provide school tax rebate to all Manhasset homeowners-however, School Board must plays by rules- details follow.
Governor Cuomo Launches "No Excuses" Push to Cut Property Taxes
"We Capped Them, Now Let’s Cut Them"
Albany, NY (February 26, 2014)
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched the “No Excuses” push, designed to help pass proposed property tax cuts for millions of New Yorkers. The initiative includes a new website, www.CutPropertyTaxes.ny.gov, featuring information on the Governor’s plan to cut property taxes, statements of support from elected officials and advocacy groups across the state and resources for visitors to contact their state legislators to make their voices heard. In January, at both the State of the State Address and Executive Budget presentation, the Governor outlined his plan to freeze property taxes for two years and create a “circuit breaker” that will provide tax relief based on an individual or family’s ability to pay. Both of these programs are part of the Governor’s broader proposal to deliver approximately $2 billion in tax relief to New Yorkers.
“High property taxes have been the number one burden on New York’s families and businesses. Right after I took office we capped property taxes to stop skyrocketing hikes that were driving people from this state. Now we need to lower property taxes and we need your help to do it,” said Governor Cuomo. “Every year, passing our agenda has depended on New Yorkers getting involved, picking up the phone and making their voices heard. Today we are encouraging all New Yorkers who are tired of paying too much in property taxes to join our effort to lower property taxes this year.’
On www.CutPropertyTaxes.ny.gov visitors can join the effort by calling their local state legislators, emailing their contacts about the property tax cut plan, downloading fliers to share information about the proposal and signing up for email updates on the campaign. Click here to watch a video marking the start of the “No Excuses” initiative (for TV stations, a high-definition version can be downloaded here).
As a result of fiscal reforms from the last three years, the State is projected to go from a $10 billion deficit when the Governor took office to a $2 billion surplus by 2016-17. Rather than using this revenue to increase spending, Governor Cuomo proposed to instead cut taxes for families and businesses to provide taxpayers relief and grow the economy. The proposals have been informed by the hard work of the bi-partisan New York State Tax Reform and Fairness Commission and the New York State Tax Relief Commission led by Former Governor George Pataki and Former Comptroller H. Carl McCall. For more information click here.
By almost any measure, New York’s real property taxes are the highest in the nation with an average residential bill of $5,040—Westchester County is ranked first in terms of absolute dollars, and Wayne County is ranked first as a percentage in terms of home value. One of the main reasons is the large number of local governments that place high burdens on taxpayers and harm the business climate. New York State has approximately 10,500 local government entities – from cities, towns, and villages down to water, sewer, and lighting districts, among others. Many such districts overlap with other municipal taxing entities. For example, Erie County has the most local governments in the State, with 1,044 total governments, representing an annual tax levy of $1.6 billion. Since January 1, 2011, only two villages have voted on and executed a dissolution.
During his first term, Governor Cuomo enacted the first property tax-cap in the state of New York, which capped property taxes by 2% or the rate of inflation. This year’s proposal builds on that cap by freezing and then cutting property taxes for homeowners and businesses when local governments consolidate and share services.
The Governor’s proposal will:
· Freeze Property Taxes for Working Families: To address the untenable property taxes in New York and incentivize local governments to share services, the Governor proposed to freeze property taxes for two years, providing nearly $1 billion in tax relief in 2015-16. Residents will be eligible for the freeze in the first year if their local governments stay within the property tax cap. During the second year, local governments must also take concrete steps to share services and reduce costs in order to remain under the freeze. The Executive Budget freezes property taxes for two years, subject to two conditions. In year one (2014-15), the State will provide tax rebates to homeowners with qualifying incomes of $500,000 or less who live in a jurisdiction that stays within the 2 percent property tax cap. In order for their homeowners to get the tax credit in the second year, school districts and local governments must continue to stay within the tax cap and must develop a plan for sharing or consolidating services and eliminating duplication and overlap that generates savings equal to three percent of tax levy within the subsequent three years. When these plans are fully implemented, local governments and school districts could provide property tax relief of up to $1 billion. The freeze will generate an average tax benefit of $354 for 2.8 million beneficiaries when fully implemented. New York City residents are not eligible for the Freeze Credit because New York City is not subject to the property tax cap.
· Create a Property Tax “Circuit Breaker” Based on Ability to Pay: Two million low- and middle-income taxpayers pay an effective real property tax rate relative to income that exceeds their income tax rate. To help these families and individuals, the Governor proposed providing tax relief based on ability to pay for households that earn up to $200,000, ultimately providing $1 billion in tax relief by the time the circuit breaker is fully phased in. The Budget creates a progressively distributed refundable tax credit against the personal income tax to provide targeted real property tax relief based on an individual homeowner’s ability to pay. When fully phased in, the program, valued at almost $1 billion, will benefit two million homeowners yielding an average benefit of $500.
Meeting Date: 02/27/2014
School Board Begins Budget Process To Promote HIGHER SCHOOL TAXES
Successful leaders are able to identify a problem and promote effective reform. Governor Cuomo identified a problem when he stated, "For decades, taxpayers across New York State have been burdened by back-breaking property taxes that have crippled businesses and families." To quote the Governor; "property taxes are a scourge statewide". After identifying the problem, the Legislature and Mr. Cuomo promoted and passed effective reform in the 2% Property Tax Cap which guaranteed homeowners their taxes would increase at the lower of 2% or inflation.
Most reasonable Manhasset homeowners applauded the Governor's leadership and supported his reform initiatives, but certain special vested interest groups such as Unions, School Associations and a few Boards of Education have relentlessly attempted to unravel the 2% Property Tax Cap seeing the legislation as a threat to their shared agenda. .
Most Long Island School Districts did adhere to the tax cap but Babylon and Manhasset decided to present a budget that pierced the Property Tax Cap in 2013, thereby aligning themselves with the broad agenda of the union and union allies. Moreover, in the case of the Manhasset School District, State Regulators (NYS Comptroller Office) have labeled the District "financially stressed": meaning the school district has resorted to borrowing and using reserves to fund massive spending.
MPSA believes the finances of the School District are in disarray, and the District has a spending problem, linked to lucrative Union Contracts, which the School Board, and only the School Board, can negotiate. MPSA believes the Union Contract, if not renegotiated, will cause the District to pierce the tax cap into the foreseeable future.
Rather than demonstrate leadership and embrace reform, the Manhasset School Board, under the leadership of School Board President, Regina Rule, has stated "spending is under control", meaning there is a revenue problem. In essence, the School Board President wants to raise your taxes significantly, rather than manage spending. MPSA would not be surprised if at the end of the "budget process", the School District will reach its pre ordained conclusion;
PIERCE THE CAP, RAISE TAXES AND FOLLOW THE UNION AGENDA.
Meeting Date: 01/30/2014
"State Regulators confirms MPSA suspicion, Manhasset School finances were mismanaged"
MPSA has opened a Pandora's box by identifying problematic School District financial information that has been kept under wraps. After carefully reviewing several years of financial reports, we believe the School Board may have systematically padded the budget over a ten year period to generate in excess of $20,000,000 of surpluses.
Specifically, a budget can be padded when a current year’s budget is based on a prior year’s budget, not a prior year’s actuals (spending). As such, once a budget is padded, the padding will potentially continue into the following year’s budget. For example, if last year’s budget was $100,000,000 and last year’s actuals was $98,000,000, there would be a $2,000,000 surplus. The following year’s budget starting point is the $100,000,000 (not the $98,000,000), which includes the $2,000,000 surplus. Unbeknownst to homeowners, over a period of years, the District would be able to amass large surpluses.
Since the School Board and only the School Board approves the school budget, MPSA asks the School Board for transparency and accountability. The Board should provide a 10 year reconciliation of budget versus actuals for all budgetary items that can be readily padded, including but not limited to, expenditures, revenues, and accruals-prior to Board approved budget revisions.
In a recent development, NYS Regulators have, in essence, warned Manhasset homeowners, the School Board, has mismanaged School Funds to the point that Albany considers the School District “Susceptible to Fiscal Stress”. This contradicts School Board President, Regina Rule, who recently claimed school spending is “under control”.
In light of the NYS Regulators allegations we are asking the School Board to put on hold all Union Salary negotiations that are currently underway and budget projections until they provide homeowners with a long term plan to reverse the “Fiscal Stress” they have created.
Meeting Date: 01/17/2014
SCHOOL BOARD FAILS TO DISCLOSE NYS REAL PROPERTY LAW WAS VIOLATED
New York State has laws that protect residents from unnecessary taxation. Specifically, School Boards are prohibited from unnecessarily taxing residents and maintaining the surplus funds in "Fund Balances". On November 4, 2013, the School District Independent Auditors reported to Regina Rule, the School Board President, that the School District was not in compliance with the NYS law, specifically Real Property Tax Law # 1318. The Independent Auditors stated the School District had exceeded the maximum fund level by $474,095.
Parents with children in the school system, should be concerned that while the School District claimed it was broke and could no longer afford certain programs, the School District knew or should have known that $474,095 was in fact available for school activities. Homeowners should be concerned that the School District pierced the tax cap and yet had $474,095 in Fund Balances that exceeded the maximum fund level.
MPSA believes, based on examining the Independent Auditors reports for the past several years, the School District's annual budget process has systematically overstated the actual funding needs to operate the School District by millions of dollars. We urge the School Board to provide homeowners with a report that compares the budget amounts versus the actual amounts spent for the past five audited years.
None of the above would have occurred had the School Board properly fulfilled its fiduciary responsibility of developing and monitoring Internal Controls. For those not familiar with the purpose of Internal Controls, they are the School District's first line of defense from fraud and financial mismanagement. We trust the School Board will take immediate action to ensure controls are tightened; as well as provide residents with all facts-both good and bad.
Meeting Date: 12/16/2013
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
This Christmas, there is a gift that keeps on giving and it is called the Education Investment Tax Credit Bill. The Ed ITC has passed the NYS Senate (S4099B) under the leadership of Senator Dean Skelos, with the support of Senator Jack Martins and currently has the support of 76 Assembly Legislators including Assemblywoman Michele Schimel (A1826B).
Essentially, the Senate version of the bill grants a 100% tax credit for donations to public, parochial or charter schools. Residents would have an opportunity to contribute to scholarship organizations or provide for public school programs in the performing arts, visual arts, civic instruction, pre-K instruction or any other educational purpose within a school. Generous New Yorkers would be properly rewarded with a 100% tax credit.
The bill has the potential to generate $333 million in voluntary contributions to support K-12 education for the children of NYS. It has the potential to stabilize independent and faith based schools and would lessen the need for local school tax increases as well as lessen the need to issue bonds for new public school construction.
On average, 75% of Long Island school taxes have been spent on escalating salaries, pensions and benefits. The Education Investment Tax Credit Bill would enable concerned residents to provide scholarships or support programs that enrich education while lowering school taxes.
To make the Ed ITC a law, the bill must be a NYS Senate priority and included in Governor Cuomo's budget which will be submitted in early 2014. We ask all concerned residents, who care about the quality of education, to contact Senator Martins and Assemblywoman Michele Schimel; thank them for their support of the Educational Investment tax Credit Bill and, and most important, ask them to make certain that the Education Investment Tax Credit Bill is in the 2014 budget. The bill is identified as A1826B or S4099A.
You can call Senator Martins at 516 746 5924 or email him at email@example.com
You can call Assemblywoman Schimel at 516 482 6966 or email her at SchimelM@assembly.state.ny.us
You can call the Governor at 518 474 8390 or email him at his contact website:
Meeting Date: 11/06/2013
MANHASSET SCHOOL BOARD PRIORITIES
MPSA agrees with Governor Cuomo’s assertion that a spending cap of 2% or the rate of inflation will force local elected officials to prioritize spending. Unfortunately, the Manhasset School Board disagrees with the Governor and MPSA. The Board’s actions have demonstrated a clear pattern of unwillingness to prioritize spending, Residents who opened their tax bills this year saw the results, first-hand.
In the 2013-2014 budget, the Board’s priority was funding the union contract with any shortfall in funds automatically taken from students’ academic, athletic and creative programs. To avoid a repeat of this scenario, MPSA believes that the School Board must address the teacher’s entire compensation package, not only salaries, in its future labor negotiations. To negotiate salaries, while ignoring sweetheart retirement packages valued at approximately $3,000,000 per teacher at retirement, is incomprehensible. For starters, why not scale back or eliminate the teacher’s retiree healthcare package? Not only would the community be relieved of a growing $123,000,000 liability (as reported by the school’s own auditors) but in addition, the community would be assured that the annual budget would fall within the spending cap for the foreseeable future.
We have reason to believe the School Board will continue favoring the union contract over student programs, guaranteeing a budget that will exceed the spending cap. Union salaries and benefits will continue unabated, and the School Board will put your children’s programs on the chopping block, unless you agree to vote “YES” to override the tax cap.
The School Board President, Regina Rule, recently stated, “School spending is well under control”. We disagree.
Meeting Date: 10/02/2013
Public Education is Under Attack
Recently, Manhasset School Superintendent, Charlie Cardillo, said "public education is under attack”. MPSA agrees. When labor unions influence politicians and local boards of education, students, parents and taxpayers come "under attack". Educational excellence and fiscal restraint are the first casualties. There are many examples of “attacks”, but two will suffice.
Case in point: the erosion of educational excellence. For many years, parents' complaints of poor classroom instruction fell on deaf ears but when complaints became a crescendo, politicians recognized the issue had to be addressed. Since educational excellence is almost synonymous with an excellent teacher, legislation was designed to evaluate teachers. At great expense to the taxpayer, the Manhasset School District adopted a teacher evaluation plan. Under the plan, classroom performance would be observed over a year and poor performing teachers would be rated “ineffective”. At this point, the ineffective teacher is not dismissed, instead a committee is convened to “evaluate the evaluation”. Sitting on the committee is the union president and an “ineffective” rating can easily be negotiated to “effective” given the broad criteria used in the rating process. When an educator’s classroom performance is so dismal that it simply cannot be negotiated to the “effective” level, an “improvement plan” is developed so the teacher has another year in the classroom and another increase in salary “to improve”. The slightest improvement can begin the process again. Unfortunately, parents are not notified when their child is placed with an “ineffective” teacher.
According to Manhasset Superintendent Cardillo, "less than effective doesn't mean that they're (teachers) ineffective…..” In the words of the Manhasset Union President, "It still takes a lot of work (to terminate a tenured teacher), but our evaluation system provides administrators with more documentation". There are years devoted to documentation. Students, parents and taxpayers don’t need more documentation. They need effective teachers in classrooms and apparently the Manhasset evaluation plan does not deliver.
Case in point: the lack of fiscal restraint. Manhasset School District provides lifetime health care to its retirees. Currently, the annual retiree healthcare cost is approximately $12million, of which $3million is paid. The $9million balance will be paid “sometime in the future”. “Sometime in the future” accounting is similar to social security “pay as you go” accounting. Since unpaid retiree healthcare costs grow annually, Manhasset has an astounding $123,098,182 burden in unfunded healthcare. That amount of money can buy many music programs and keep the District within the 2% tax cap.
Recently, a local newspaper published a picture of Manhasset Superintendent Cardillo and the President of the Teachers Union sitting side by side. MPSA applauds good relations between labor and management, but hopes that when the two parties negotiate a union contract this year, they are sitting opposite each other because one party promotes less work and more money and the other party should promote educational excellence and fiscal restraint within the 2% tax cap.
Meeting Date: 08/24/2013
MPSA Supports the Restoration of the Music Programs
Recently, a twelve year old Manhasset student emailed residents with an urgent request. Apparently, portions of the music program in Shelter Rock and Munsey Park Elementary Schools have been eliminated and the student is leading a drive to raise $13,000 "to restore these programs.....for good". MPSA agrees and applauds his efforts and those of his adult supporters. As a grassroots organization, independent from the Manhasset School District, including the School Board, School Unions, Administration, SCA, related committees and organizations, we support excellent education while adhering to the 2% tax cap. As such, we offer several suggestions to restore the music program “for good”.
Since the School Board did not adequately clarify misinformation that flowed through a variety of sources many residents still believe that the Board has fewer funds to spend. Based on the Manhasset School Board’s own documents, the 2013-2014 school budget raised real property taxes by 1.97% or $1,532,815 more than the prior budget and $1,413,892 more than the allowable cap. The reality is the School Board has more tax levy dollars, obviously sufficient for a $13,000 music program. If funds are not being spent on a $13,000 music program, where are the funds being spent?
It appears that the School Board has chosen union salaries and benefits over children’s programs. For example, as a result of previous School Board-Union negotiations, retiree healthcare will cost the taxpayer approximately $10,000,000 this year, of which $3,000,000 will actually be paid this year; the $7,000,000 balance will be paid sometime in the future. If retiree healthcare were paid by retirees, as is the case for most retirees, there would be no need for young students and their adult supporters to solicit donations for a $13,000 music program. This is an obvious case of putting the wants of the union before the needs of students.
Over the years, in order to meet union demands for ever increasing compensation, the Manhasset School Board and their unions have conducted secret negotiations. Taxpayers have never been privy to the progress, or lack thereof, in union negotiations. Taxpayers were notified only after a union contract had been signed; a fait accompli. If residents complained of ever increasing taxes and decreasing programs, the Board would blame Albany and mandates.
With the advent of the 2% tax cap, the landscape has changed, but the School Board has not. MPSA believes the School Board’s actions clearly demonstrate that they are willing to spend the entire 2% tax cap and more on teacher and administrator compensation packages, causing future cuts to the quality of children’s education. Taxpayers must demand that the union contract that is about to be signed put children first and not exceed the 2% tax cap.
Please spread the word. Forward this email to everyone you know who may be interested in an independent perspective. Go to our website at www.manhassetpsa.com. We want to hear from you.
Meeting Date: 06/13/2013
Manhasset Press Letter to the Editor : Run The Numbers
ATTENTION ALL SENIORS, SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS, STRUGGLING HOUSEHOLDS, FISCALLY INSECURE HOUSEHOLDS AND PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST PLAIN TIRED OF PAYING AND PAYING FOR MORE AND MORE WITH NO ACCOUNTABILITY, NO PLAN AND NO END IN SIGHT.
A RECENT LETTER TO THE MANHASSET PRESS LISTS THE VARIOUS EXTRACURRICULAR PROGRAMS THAT OUR MANHASSET PUBLIC SCHOOLS PROVIDE AND THEN INADVERTENTLY MAKES A CASE FOR LETTING OTHERS (THE TAXPAYER) PAY FOR THOSE EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES.
“SO WHY WOULD YOU VOTE DOWN THE BUDGET AND TURN AROUND AND PAY THE SAME AMOUNT…? WE NEED TO THINK LONG AND HARD ABOUT WHAT OUR OUT OF POCKET COSTS MAY BE…..”
INDEED, THOSE OF US WHO PICK UP THE BILL FOR NEVER ENDING DEMANDS NEED TO THINK LONG AND HARD ABOUT WHETHER WE WANT TO CONTINUE TO PAY AND PAY.
WE REST OUR CASE.
ON JUNE 18, VOTE
Manhasset Press: Run The Numbers
Thursday, 13 June 2013
I have heard from people who believe that extracurricular activities and elective courses such as athletics, drama, science research, computer graphics, music, and the like can be cut from the school budget, because parents can simply pay to send their kids to commercial programs in the area.
So I did a little investigating and came up with some interesting facts and figures.
• Music lessons at a local establishment run approximately $60/45 minute lesson for 40 weeks. Which is, more or less, what are kids are getting in school. That totals $2,400.
• Travel soccer and travel lacrosse clubs at two Nassau County based programs run $1,000+ and $1,200+ respectively for the year.• Art classes at a local facility are $1,100 for 32weeks.
• A five day computer programming class at Adelphi University for high school age students runs $1,000. I reiterate: five day.
• Acting/repertory classes are $900 for 8 weeks. Our kids are getting these opportunities for closer to 40 weeks so if you run the numbers that totals approximately $4,500 for the school year.
Remember, the increase in taxes for the proposed budget that was defeated on May 21 on a home assessed at $1,500,000 was $1,000. And that covers everything: Academics and instruction, busing, operation of plant, facility maintenance, supervision, curriculum development, special-education programs and services, technology, and so much more, including co-curricular activities.
So why would you vote down the budget and then turnaround and pay the same amount—or possibly double or even triple what your increased tax bill would have been if we approved the school budget on May 21—for just one activity? That is not common sense. I think we all need to think long and hard about what our out-of-pocket cost may actually be if we vote the budget down and lose the programs that have been outlined in the worst case scenario. Replacing them with outside options may be significantly more costly. If these extracurricular activities that complement the academic foundation go, so go many of the amazing connections between classmates and their link to the schools. We can’t turn back time, but we can support the budget on June 18.
Take the common sense path. Vote “yes,” so we are not forced to dig deeper into our pockets to give our kids these critically important extracurriculars.
Meeting Date: 05/30/2013
Letter: It’s About Consequences
I had to re-stake the ‘NO NO NO’ sign at the Plandome Station since it was cast aside for a ‘Vote YES’ sign.
The get-out-the-vote effort for the school budget voting is huge and does not bode well for a ‘NO’ vote against this voluntary tax increase.
Many families move to Manhasset for the schools and are willing to pay for them since they plan to move as soon as the kids are out of school. That is all good but residents that are the core long term homeowners are left to pay their massive tax bills. It seems we are only renting our homes from the taxman!
I doubt that many voters understand that once they go beyond the 2 percent tax increase that a new floor on the taxes is established.
If next year the BOE manages to just a two percent increase our average tax increase over the next two years will be four percent.
I had a difficult time voting for that prospect.
The next issue ignored is that at some point our higher taxes work to depress home values and slow re-sales.
This little ugly fact does not seem to register with the cheerleaders of ever-bigger budgets and benefits.
Even more important is that the option used this year to smooth the pension payment [Read: lower the payments] does not make it go away and will work to increase the UAAL / unfunded pension liabilities unless the State Pensions really have whopping investment returns several years in a row. I would not bet my money on long-term superior investment returns from a State agency.
The teacher’s pension funds have severely under performed over the last 5-6 years and the obligations are massive and growing.
The actual amount of UAAL / unfunded liabilities was near impossible to get out of the BOE but it is in the 100’s of millions of dollars! I have met few Manhasset residents that know this key aspect to the BOE budget’s creation. These unfunded liabilities are even bigger than stated in NY State documents since the rate of return assumptions is about eight percent per annum. If and this is a big if, the real return is just 6 percent per annum our unfunded obligations increases by 25 percent, yes 25 percent because two is one quarter of eight- not just a two percent up tick as so many think.
The issue is that next year [and every year thereafter] the pension and healthcare [another $123 million dollar totally unfunded liability] will take an even bigger chunk of the budget and people will have to notice that nearly 25 percent of all their hard earned tax money goes not to educating their kids but to obligations mandated by Albany and those that our BOE incurs for benefits. Have you ever spoken at length with a BOE candidate?
I will wait quietly until next year’s ever-urgent effort at ‘get-out-the-vote’. This vigorous effort will likely bring a chuckle. It also brings to mind a quote,
“The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.” ~Winston Churchill
Meeting Date: 05/19/2013
6% IS JUST THE BEGINNING
As early as May 2012, already anticipating piercing the tax cap, the Superintendent wrote, “we encourage our residents to think 60 plus”: meaning that it would require 60 percent of the vote to pierce the tax cap. Therefore, it came as no surprise that in May 2013, after spending the taxpayers’ cash reserves, the Administration pierced the cap and proposed a 6% school tax increase
The Administration got it right in one respect; residents should think. They should think of what a 6% school tax increase will cost them.
For example, property taxes on homes assessed at $1.5 million will increase approximately $1,000. Since the Board has deferred pension costs and not pledged to honor the tax cap next year, residents can expect a similar compounded school tax increase in 2014 and thereafter. Did you know that the current Unfunded Future Pension Liability is $123,000,000 and Growing
But this is only the beginning, looming on the horizon is a court order which has shifted a portion of the commercial property tax burden to residential property owners, The shift will raise residential property taxes by an amount yet to be determined.
Furthermore, recent court decisions may ultimately force Nassau County to refund millions of dollars to public sector employees and school districts which will further burden the taxpayer. Residents may be facing 15% or more in tax increases in two years.
We have reached this deplorable situation because the School Board managed the District as if there were no tax cap and simply conducted “business as usual”. However, this time there is a solution to mismanagement and poor leadership.
NO + NO = NO NEW SCHOOL TAXES.
Your school taxes will NOT increase if you vote NO on May 21. If the District does not get 60% of the vote, residents must vote NO a second time because NO + NO =NO NEW SCHOOL TAXES.
To estimate the cost of Manhasset School District’s 6% tax increase for your property, go to the following website:
Example: A home valued Valued at $1,200,000 that has an assessed value of $3,019 would have a Tax Increase of $$1,279 or 9.7%
Meeting Date: 05/18/2013
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
A very expensive brochure entitled “BUDGET VOTE TUESDAY, MAY 21st was delivered to Manhasset residents as part of the School District’s campaign to get out the budget vote. It is important to read the brochure in detail, to fully understand the magnitude of the school budget increase.
On numerous occasions during the budget campaign, and on page two of the brochure, residents are informed that the 2013-2014 budget increase in only 2.56% or a mere $2,226,774 over last year. But carefully perusing the District’s brochure, specifically the bottom of page three, the careful reader learns that in 2013-2014, the District had an extra $1,455,910 on hand as a result of a decrease in debt service. So in order to get a clear picture of the true increase in the budget, one must add the $1,455,910 to the $2,226,774 for a total budget increase of $3,682,684. The reality is the 2013-2014 budget increased more than 4% year over year. Furthermore, this 4%+ budget increase was achieved by deferring over $1.2million in pension costs to be paid in future budgets.
Since the School District had an extra $1,455,910 on hand, New York State calculated that the tax levy should be almost zero (.15). This presented a dilemma for the School District. If the school budget was within the cap, tax increases would be almost zero (.15). If the School Board pierced the cap and lost the vote, taxes would be zero. There was nothing to lose by attempting to pierce the cap, and much to gain if the District succeeded in getting the “60 plus” vote.
It is time for real leadership and management.
NO+NO=NO NEW SCHOOL TAXES
Meeting Date: 05/13/2013
Before voting on May 21 to raise your school taxes by 6%, there are a few questions that the School Administration should answer so that the voter can be fully informed.
1. The Manhasset taxpayer paid off a school bond this year thereby saving $1.5 million which could be applied to lower our taxes. So where is that money? Is the District spending the $1.5 million AND raising our taxes 6% AND deferring $1,290,000 in pension costs (which eventually must be paid long after the current Administration has resigned)?
2. The Manhasset School District cites "pension costs" as a reason to pierce our tax cap. Aren't all Districts facing the same pension costs? Aren't 90% meeting their tax cap?
3. The District receives thousands of resumes for a handful of job openings? Why does the District continue to increase salaries at the rate of 6% annually? Couldn't salary increases be based on merit or even on the business concept of supply and demand?
4. The School District is using taxpayer money to hire a Public Relations company to bring out the YES vote? Isn't this legally and ethically questionable? Couldn't the money be better spent, for example, on a sports program?
Enough is Enough!
Vote NO+NO =NO new school taxes
Meeting Date: 04/26/2013
It’s for the Children
Many economic sectors have been adversely affected by the recession; bankers, financiers, seniors, small business owners and yet the educational bureaucracy refuses to make meaningful concessions that will produce a school budget that in within the 1.43% tax levy. The entrenched bureaucratic alliance of unions, the board of education and their acolytes continue to demand a 6% increase in the tax levy and refuse to entertain real change, even as other Districts have embraced change and met their tax cap.
Over the years, concerned residents have made suggestions such as trimming administration, increasing class size by one or two students, limiting sick leave or reducing salaries and benefits. Their suggestions are ridiculed as inappropriate business practices and are rebuffed with the usual bureaucratic response; obfuscation, denial, attacking the messenger. So instead of embracing real change, we are warned by the beneficiaries of the system that if they don’t get their 6% tax increase, the sports program will be eliminated and other programs will be reduced.
Maybe we should look at what could be eliminated or reduced. The Superintendent’s total compensation is approximately $350,000. The median compensation for teachers is approximately $150,000 with pensions that average $80,000. Salaries increase on average 6% a year, automatically and without any accountability. The Board and its unions have negotiated lifetime health care and unlimited sick leave. The Board has been generous with our taxpayer money, but when asked the reason for the 6% tax increase, the Board cites “mandates”.
If the bureaucratic alliance gets their 6% tax increase, you can expect a similar increase next year and we will be on a path that is unsustainable. There will be no need to ridicule the business model because no rational business leader would locate in a region where taxes rise relentlessly. Let’s look on the bright side, at least they no longer say, “it’s for the children”.
Meeting Date: 04/19/2013
Letter To Manhasset Press: Kicking The Can Down The Road
Friday, 19 April 2013 00:00
Another year, another school budget debate. Much has been written and spoken about, but little has been done except for kicking the can down the road.
One letter writer states that New York State determines pension benefits. This is not exactly true. What the writer neglects to mention, is the State determination is merely an administrative function. The actual amount of money contributed to the fund is based upon salary (determined by the school board), age of employee, years of service and assumed rates of return, among other things. To blame the state is misleading and disingenuous.
Governor Cuomo agreed to a plan that would allow school districts to defer some of their current pension contributions for six years. Mr. Cardillo’s latest update applauds Senator Jack Martins’ effort in passing this legislation which he calls “pension contribution stabilization program.” Mr. Cardillo goes on to say that this action would bring immediate relief in the amount of $1.2million.
My understanding is that this merely a “deferral” of $1.2 million for six years. “Immediate relief?” Yes, longer term pain, yes again.
I would ask Mr. Cardillo to answer the following questions.
What is the district’s total pension contribution for the coming year?
The deferral of $1.2 million today will require how much of a payment in six years?
Where will the money come from in six years?
Why not tell people that you are proposing a deferral, rather than calling it a “pension contribution stabilization program” and allow us to vote on it?
Governor Cuomo and Senator Martins will be on to bigger and better positions just like all his predecessors, when our obligations come due. Our community and our community alone will be left with the issue of finding the funds.
Don’t kick the can down the road any more. Address the issues today and make the tough choices now.
Meeting Date: 04/10/2013
Letter to the Editor:
The Board of Education has warned that there will be dire consequences if their excessive $91 million budget is not passed. Sadly, the Board has selected certain programs for elimination: programs that have a disproportionate and harmful impact on children and families.
Fortunately for residents, there are surrounding, comparable Districts that are models of management and leadership. If the Manhasset School District emulated their example, the Board could produce a budget that is within the allotted 2% cap and within the allotted 1.43% property tax increase rather than proposing an excessive 8.8% increase in our property taxes.
There are two major factors contributing to Manhasset’s reputation as a tax and spend District.
1. Manhasset is one of the highest paying Districts in New York and like all public schools, compensation is not linked to merit.
2. Manhasset has more employees, especially paraprofessionals than any Nassau School District. For example, Garden City School District, an excellent and well managed system, has 7 schools and 71 paraprofessionals for 4038 students while Manhasset has 4 schools and 101 paraprofessionals for 3193 students (2012 data). This largesse costs residents $3 million
Residents have made other recommendations for the Board after reviewing the Superintendent’s campaign presentation.
· With student enrollment projected to decline next year by 26 students, the Board should reconsider its decision to hire an additional 11 people at a cost of $1.2 million.
· With experienced and numerous teachers and administrators, the Board should reconsider its decision to maintain a staff of 23 aides to supervise morning and afternoon arrivals, recess and lunch at a cost of $2 million.
· With $150,000 median educator salaries and over $200,000 administrator salaries, the Board should reconsider paying staff for certain routine duties such as Cafeteria Duty at a cost of $175,000 alone.
· With an understanding that excessive absences are not only costly but also interfere with educational continuity, the Board should eliminate personnel unlimited sick days which require hiring substitutes at great expense.
· With the number of special education students declining from 500 to 480 this year, the Board should reconsider its decision to hire five new staff members this year.
The Manhasset Board of Education should consider the plight of Seniors who are struggling with their property taxes now: Small Business Owners who have seen their profit margins decline; Financial and Wall Street people whose bonuses and jobs are insecure. Decency demands that the Board produce a budget that is within the tax cap and meets the 1.43% tax levy increase. Anything more will embellish the reputation of the District as a tax and spend District lacking leadership and management.
Remember NO PLUS NO EQUALS NO NEW TAXES.
Vote NO on May 21 and vote NO the second time.
Meeting Date: 04/05/2013
School Enrollment to decline in 2013
Most surrounding districts have presented budgets within their allotted tax caps, but he Manhasset School District has presented a budget above the cap which will raise our school taxes 8.8% instead of the capped 1.43%. The Superintendent has cited numerous causes for this sorry situation; increased pension costs, less state aid, mandates, increased enrollment and even the Federal Sequester. Since pension costs, less state aid, mandates and the sequester are common to all Districts and they have not pierced their cap, the only excuse for piercing the cap is putative increased enrollment.
A careful look at the Manhasset enrollment statistics is warranted. Actual and projected enrollment between 2007 and 2016 averages 16 more students per year. With proper leadership and planning, 16 students can easily be accommodated in a student body of approximately 3000 without resorting to massive tax increases.
This year, 2013, enrollment will begin to decline by 26 students and is projected to continue to decline through 2016, and yet, this year, the District intends to add 11new staff members. Personnel costs continue to account for over 75% of the school budget.
It should be noted that the tax cap makes no meaningful exemption for normal increases in enrollment. The legislation was written with the expectation that regular changes in enrollment could easily be managed with proper management and leadership. Therein lies the problem; the Administration has not demonstrated the management, leadership or willingness to rein in excessive spending. Instead, the Manhasset School District depleted the school reserves to conduct “business as usual” and now demands an 8.8% increase in taxes to continue “business as usual”.
According to the Administration’s campaign and letters to the Manhasset Press, there will be dire consequences if the budget fails. Some residents have even admitted that they are "scared to death" if the budget fails. They should be scared if the budget passes because it is will be the first of many budgets that will pierce the cap because they can.
On May 21, you can finally stop the tax and spend mentality.
Vote NO + NO = NO NEW TAXES. If the first vote fails, you must vote NO a second time for better management, leadership and no new taxes.
Meeting Date: 04/01/2013
A YES VOTE IS A VOTE FOR THE UNION
Remember one important fact if you vote to increase your school taxes by anything above the 2% tax cap:
Approximately 75% of the school budget is spent on employee salaries and benefits, regardless of merit and with no accountability.
Compensation, negotiated between the union and the school board, is raised 2% to 6% annually based only on seniority.
Currently, the median educator’s compensation is $150,000 with unlimited sick leave, health care and pensions based on salaries
negotiated between the union and the Board of Education. The highest paid Administrator’s basic salary is $260,000 plus 30% more
in benefits. He earns more than the New York City School Chancellor.
This deplorable situation reached a climax in 2011, when Governor Cuomo, prodded by the Federal Government, recognized the obvious:
educator quality is an important determinant of student achievement and ever increasing compensation without accountability does not result
in excellent education. As a result, the Governor proposed a meaningful educator performance review, known as an Annual Professional
Performance Review or APPR. The plan would rate educators “ineffective” if they could not, or would not meet the standard, and they would
be expediently removed from the system. The goal was to remove incompetent educators, raise the standard and presumably, taxes would be
well spent on those educators who strive for excellence.
But what followed is a classic example of the power of the teachers union. Although publicly supporting the Governor’s plan, the New York State
United Teachers Union sued to gain influence over implementation of it. Amazingly, they won and hard working educators, students and taxpayers lost.
A close look at Manhasset's APPR reveals the depth of the Union’s victory in our community. Tenured educators rated “ineffective” after a year’s
evaluation, are not expediently removed from the classroom, as you would expect. Instead, they continue to get automatic salary increases
while their “ineffective” rating is appealed to a “Professional Review Appeals Process Panel”. The Union President, the Superintendent and others
sit on this panel to review and negotiate the “ineffective” rating. The net result is almost all educators will be rated “effective”.
However, in the unlikely event that the “ineffective” rating stands because no accommodation was reached between the union and administration,
the educator is given a “Teacher Improvement Plan” (TIP) and a second year in the classroom. Students who sit in these classrooms often require tutors.
Moreover, parents are denied access to teachers’ ratings because, as one Long Island Administrator inadvertently stated, “The more privacy, the better,
not just for the teacher, but for the orderly operation of schools.”
The reality is we have a system that cannot and will not remove tenured personnel who perform at the lowest level. Excellent, tenured educators
are not rewarded for their hard work. Incompetent, tenured educators are not penalized for their lack of work. The union won.
The taxpayer lost and now the District is testing the water with an 8.78% increase in school taxes, of which 75% will be spent on compensation without accountability.
It is important to vote NO on May 21 and NO again, if there is a second vote.
NO+ NO means the District must demonstrate leadership and make the necessary changes that result in excellent education.
NO + NO = NO NEW TAXES and much, much more!
Meeting Date: 10/01/2012
Manhasset Republicans Discuss School Choice
Since Governor Romney has endorsed School Choice and the Chicago Teachers Strike has highlighted the issue, Frank Russo was the perfect guest speaker at the Manhasset Republican Club. Frank is the Producer of “American Family Association Presents”, the largest public access cable TV program in the region. He is on the Executive Committee of "Long Islanders for Educational Reform” and President of “Port Washington Educational Assembly”. He has appeared on numerous TV programs including Geraldo, Long island Talks, Alan Colmes, and Court TV. He is an avid proponent of educational excellence and school choice as the means of achieving it.
Mr. Russo traced the demise of school choice to the passage of the Blaine Amendment in the late nineteenth century, which was a discriminatory, anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant piece of legislation and still is. The Amendment bans funding for religious schools. Since 90% of private schools are religious today, the Blaine Amendment continues to adversely affect families who want their children educated in their religious values and mores.
However, the case for school choice goes beyond a civil rights issue. According to Mr. Russo, school choice improves and raises the level of all schools. It provides excellent education and can save the taxpayer billions of dollars. In 1990, Polly Williams an African American parent and Tommy Thompson, Governor of Wisconsin, developed a school voucher program despite the push back from the teachers unions. By 1997, the public schools were improving because they finally had to compete for students whose parents, armed with school vouchers, would simply remove their children from failing schools. In 1991, Ron Lauder of Estee Lauder funded a study which proved that school choice would save the taxpayer ten to twelve billion dollars a year in 2012 dollars. Catholic school per pupil expenditure is $7,000 to $10,000 annually as compared to over $25,000 per student enrolled in government public schools. Catholic schools continue to excel despite the disparity in cost. In fact, the Washington DC school system ranks as one of the costliest school systems in the nation with dismal results. Mr. Russo makes the case that money cannot buy excellence in education. Other factors such the family values and teacher excellence are more important than power boards.
The speaker endorsed the Educational Investment Incentive Act as a small step for school choice. The bill would provide a NYS tax credit for individual or corporate donations to any parent who opts to send their child to an accredited public or private school. The bill has passed the NYS Senate but is stalled in the Assembly where Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver, in step with the demands of the teachers union, adamantly opposes its passage because the teachers union will not tolerate any encroachment of their monopoly.
This being an election year, and the venue being the Manhasset Republican Club, Mr. Russo reminded the audience that Michelle and Barack Obama selected Sidwell Friends School, a very expensive private school, for their daughters, at the same time the President vetoed school choice funds in Washington DC which, in reality, condemned thousands of students to failing public schools. Mr. Russo believes that the African American community is unaware of the Republican stand on school choice and should be made aware.
You can be more aware of current issues when you join us at the Landmark Diner, second floor at 7:00PM on October 15 to hear the ever exciting Dan Halloran who will speak on Views of the Election. We usually meet on the second Monday of the month but the second Monday in October is Columbus Day so we shifted our meeting. As usually, our meeting is open to all and all are welcome.
Meeting Date: 10/01/2012
Manhasset School Dist. - Plans to pierce the 2% Tax Cap
As soon as the May 16, 2012 budget results were tabulated, the Manhasset School District Administration, emboldened by the 69.6% vote for the school budget, proclaimed that “the supermajority (60% or greater vote) will become increasingly more in play“. Within a few months, the Board made the decision to authorize an additional teacher in kindergarten, grade one, grade three and grade five.
By September 20, 2012, the Manhasset School Superintendent announced that the "district administration leadership team projects the May 21, 2013 budget vote will more than likely pierce the cap". It took four months for the District to announce that it cannot live within the “severe constraints” of a 2% property tax while fellow New Yorkers struggle with the severe constraints of a 9% unemployment rate.
Fortunately, the new tax cap legislation provides the taxpayer with real power. If the District proceeds to introduce a budget that pierces the cap and fails to win a 60% vote twice, the budget reverts to the prior year. NO+NO =NO NEW TAXES.
To demonstrate that the District can and should live within the cap, MPSA has attached the 2011 salaries of Manhasset School District personnel. The median salary was $114,674 for 2011. It should be noted that salaries represent over 75% of the school budget and increase every year through automatic step increases, as well as contractual increases, without any linkage to accountability or merit for tenured teachers. Consequently, the 2012 salaries are, at a minimum, 2% higher than those listed. Furthermore, benefits add on average, an additional 30% to the cost of personnel. If the District is interested in keeping within the spirit of the 2% tax cap, we suggest they begin here. We, too, will begin here and will continue to keep you informed as to how the District can stay within the cap.
Salaries for the Years 2008 through 2011 - Go To http://seethroughny.net/payrolls/schools/
Meeting Date: 03/03/2012
The NYS Assembly, Long Island delegation, invited MPSA to speak at their annual budget meeting. The following legislation which would significantly lower taxes for all residents was proposed
Three Reforms for Lower Taxes
Assembly Budget Committee Hearing, March 3, 2012
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak today. About three weeks ago, I read an article in which my county representative, Judi Bosworth, criticized Ed Mangano’s plan to save several million dollars by closing several police precincts. I called Ms. Bosworth’s office to ask her one simple, direct and very important question; the same question facing this committee, “What is your plan to lower our taxes?” I am still awaiting Ms. Bosworth’s answer.
New York State taxes are among the highest in the nation and our middle class services can only be described as mediocre. We spend more money than any other state on big ticket items such as education and health care but rank in the middle of all states in effectiveness. The reason, as you know, is the enormous influence public sector unions have on our state and local government officials. Effective lobbying efforts have increased public sector salaries, pensions, benefits and have led to redundant work procedures and cumbersome rules and regulations that stifle innovation. In short, the more powerful the public sector unions have become, the more the State has declined.
To address this dire situation, grassroots organizations throughout New York have organized and developed their own plans to lower our taxes. For starters three reforms must be made:
First, repeal the Triborough Amendment. It is ridiculous to expect public sector unions to bargain in good faith when Triborough mandates the continuation of all benefits and salary steps when a contract has expired and negotiations are underway for a new contract. Management, that is, the taxpayer, has no leverage and if negotiations reach an impasse, the contract is decided by a union friendly arbitrator. This is not collective bargaining. This is legalized corruption.
Second, reform the public sector pension system. In the past, the quid pro quo was public sector employees would receive a lower salary in exchange for a reasonable pension. Today, it is not uncommon for public sector employees to receive six figure salaries and six figure pensions, while other New Yorkers continue to work well into their retirement years because they must pay those exorbitant salaries and pensions. The middle class can no longer afford the demands of an elite unionized workforce. Public sector pensions should be modeled after SUNY and CUNY employee pensions and include defined contributions.
Third, and this comes under the heading of “all things are possible” even in New York State. Currently, the State is complicit in forcing public sector employees to pay union dues even when they don’t want to join the public sector union. One can only wonder why any State would force its own employees to pay union dues which, in turn, the union will spend to lobby the same State to increase salaries and benefits to the detriment of taxpayers. This gross injustice to the taxpayer and affront to the concept of liberty has no place in honest government. The State has no business in doing its union’s business.
These thee reforms are the beginning of a plan to lower our taxes, but we must move quickly. In the last decade 1.2 million middle class New Yorkers have fled New York and as soon as there is an uptick in the housing market, the 1.2 million will look like a trickle compared to the tsunami that will follow. To stem this tide our politicians must change their mindset and come up with a plan, not to raise, not to maintain the status quo but to lower our taxes. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Long Islanders for Educational Reform
Meeting Date: 01/17/2012
Drop Triborough Amendment to Control Expenses
In tough economic times, New York State’s counties, municipalities and school districts face intense pressure to control their budgets. To bring spending into line with tightly constrained revenues, local governments need more than ever to control rising employee salary and benefit costs.
But efforts to restructure costly public- sector labor deals often run into a statutory brick wall known as the Triborough Amendment. The 1982 amendment mandates that all provisions of a public employee contract — including those providing automatic annual pay increases—must remain in effect even after the contract expires.
This law makes it easier for unions to resist negotiating structural changes to their contracts, since the status quo will be preserved even if no contract agreement is reached.
“Step” raises negotiated into existing contracts and guaranteed by the Triborough Amendment cost state government no less than $140 million a year. They add nearly $300 million annually to school budgets statewide.
County executives, mayors, school administrators and school board members throughout New York State have cited the Triborough Amendment as an obstacle to providing better, more efficient, less costly public services. Locally —where employee salaries and benefits typically comprise 50 percent to 70 percent of operating expenditures by municipalities and school districts — preserving automatic pay increases when a contract ends and the union is intractable results either in layoffs or deep reductions in other important services.
Moreover, the Triborough Amendment makes it harder for school districts and local governments to live within the confines of the newly enacted property tax cap. To avoid disrupting public services, they need greater flexibility.
The costs tell only part of the story. Since the Triborough Amendment makes it easier for unions to resist proposals for more significant and lasting changes to work rules, staffing requirements and fringe benefit cost-sharing arrangements, the full cost impact of the provision on state and local government is incalculable. In these austere fiscal times, the Triborough Amendment must be repealed.
Contrary to union claims, repeal of the Triborough Amendment would not expose union members to the unilateral cancellation of health insurance or other important benefits. Rather, according to a new report by the Empire Center, basic terms and conditions of employment would be protected by the underlying “Triborough Doctrine,” based on a state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) ruling in 1972.
In 1982, Gov. Hugh Carey should have listened to his senior budget staff when they urged him not to sign the Triborough Amendment. In 2012, it is time for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to rid public employers of this costly albatross of a mandate, which raises the desires of the few above the needs of the many.
Russell Sykes is a senior fellow with the Empire Center for New York State Policy.
Meeting Date: 01/04/2012
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE TAX CAP
NO + NO = YOU CONTROL PROPERTY TAXES
THE TAX CAP
The law limits the annual growth of property taxes levied by local governments and school districts to 2% or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. The tax cap is calculated on each taxing jurisdiction’s total tax base, not on individual property. If your assessment increases or decreases, your tax rate may be slightly higher or lower.
EXCLUSIONS AND MODIFICATIONS TO THE CAP
Tort or settlements that exceed 5% of the tax levy; a very unusual occurrence
Capital costs and interest which require voter approval
With the exception of annual increases of over 2% in the rate of pension costs, all other pension costs are covered by the cap
SCHOOL BUDGET VOTING PROCESS
If a school district submits a budget that is within the cap, a simple majority vote can pass it. If it fails, the school district may have a second vote, but if the second vote fails, or the district chooses not to resubmit the budget, the tax levy will be frozen at the previous year’s level. THERE CAN BE NO INCREASE IN THE TAX LEVY
Likewise, if a school district submits a budget that exceeds the cap, a super majority vote of 60% is needed for passage. If it fails, the district may have a second vote. If the budget fails twice, or the district chooses not to resubmit, the tax levy will be frozen at the previous year’s level RESULTING IN NO TAX LEVY INCREASE.
Taxpayers should know that the majority of property taxes are school taxes and approximately 70% of school taxes are allocated for salaries and benefits which are negotiated between school districts and unions. Obviously, school districts and unions can produce a budget within the cap if they negotiate prudently. This being the case, it is imperative that throughout contract negotiations, residents be apprised of progress or lack of progress, specifying what is offered by districts and what is demanded by unions. Taxpayers should NOT be given the bill after a contract has been signed; nor should they be informed that negotiations broke down and a union friendly mediator /arbitrator will decide the bill: nor should they be told that salaries and health care are “mandates” when, in fact, they are negotiated contract items.
THE TRUTH IS YOUR VOTE FINALLY COUNTS
NO + NO = YOU CONTROL PROPERTY TAXES
Meeting Date: 10/21/2011
Teacher Accountability and Compensation System
The following recommendations are based on recent New York State guidelines. When incorporated into the Manhasset School District teacher’s contract, the guidelines should result in significant educational improvement for students and more effective motivation for teachers by linking teacher accountability with compensation
The new integrated Teacher Accountability and Compensation System will compensate teachers based on their performance. Highly Effective Teachers should be paid more than Effective or Ineffective performing Teachers
The Compensation guidelines are as follows:
1. Highly Effective (Outstanding) Teachers will receive the highest annual salary increase to acknowledge their superior performance and to motivate them to continue their high level of performance. They will receive a salary increase to be determined in the new contract plus a step increase based on the number of years employed.
2. Effective (Average) Teachers and Developing Teachers will receive only a step increase in salary based on the number of years employed. The effective performers will be encouraged to improve their performance to Highly Effective in order to receive further compensation. The developing teacher will be encouraged to improve performance to effective teacher. If there is no improvement in performance to effective in one year they will be terminated.
3. Ineffective (Poor) Performers will receive no increase in compensation. This is intended to motivate the Teacher to improve performance or be terminated.
There are several significant benefits to having Teacher Performance as the main input in determining Compensation.
1. Student education will improve.
2. Teachers will be motivated to improve their performance.
3. Poor performing Teachers will improve their performance or they will leave the School District.
4. The Highly Effective will be paid more than the Average Teacher which eliminates a policy of salary increases based only on years of service.
5. They overall spirit and attitude in the school district will improve.
Highly Effective Merit Increase Yes Step Increase Yes
Effective Merit Increase No Step Increase Yes
Developing Merit Increase No Step Increase Yes
Ineffective Merit Increase No Step Increase No
Meeting Date: 08/14/2011
TAXPAYERS SHOULD WEIGH IN ON UNION CONTRACT
Now that residents have the protection of a property tax cap, it is important that school tax revenue be properly utilized. Limited funds must be carefully spent and “business as usual” can no longer stand if the tax cap is to succeed.
This is a timely issue since the contract between the Manhasset School Board and their Teacher Union has expired and negotiations for a new contract are under way. The expired union contract had provided for annual automatic salary increases of approximately 6%, in addition to health care and guaranteed pensions. Salaries and benefits comprise approximately 75% of school budgets. As a result, school budget increases have been driven primarily by the cost of personnel, not extras like clubs, sports or transportation, although these are usually the first programs cut when money must be found to accommodate the steadily growing teacher pay packages.
Unfortunately for residents there is very little pressure for unions to negotiate more balanced contracts because current legislation, specifically the Triborough Amendment, provides public union members, with the exception of the most senior and highly paid, with automatic salary increases even after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement. As a result, unions can simply holdout until the negotiations reach an impasse and then petition a labor-friendly public employee arbitration board which usually rules in their favor. When public sector unions complain about “no contract”, they really mean that there is no increase in the usual increase while negotiations are in progress. This being the case, New York State School Boards including the Manhasset Board are at a disadvantage in negotiating with their unions.
Despite the biased legislation, taxpaying residents have a right to know exactly what is being offered and what is being demanded in contract negotiations. Taxpaying residents have an interest in maintaining the quality of education and should be able to voice their opinions on negotiations to insure that children are properly educated and money is well spent. Manhasset School Board- Union negotiations should be public and residents should be apprised of agreements and disagreements between the Board and their unions at set intervals. In addition, when and if an agreement is reached, the terms of the agreement should be made public for at least ten days so residents can weigh-in on the deal and in the event that negotiations reach an impasse, residents should be notified of the issues which led to the impasse. It is the very least the School Board and unions can do to restore some measure of fiscal responsibility for taxpayers and fairness for the children.
Meeting Date: 03/02/2011
NEGOTIATING FOR HIGHER TAXES
This year may be an expensive year for Manhasset taxpayers. Since the Manhasset School Board has declared an impasse with MESPA, their non professional union, the entire negotiating process will be put into the hands of union friendly mediators who will most certainly continue the 6% to 8% annual salary increases and generous benefits, despite the recession. In addition, this year, the school board will initiate new contract negotiations with MEA, the teachers union. Negotiations with the administrators union will be based on the outcome of the MESPA and MEA contracts, only more generous in deference to their standing. In light of these upcoming negotiations, taxpayer residents should be informed of the District’s financial situation.
Today, the School District would have to write a check for $102,246,240 to fund health care that has already been promised to employees. Of the $102,246,240, zero has been set aside. As such, the unfunded health care liability is approximately 120% of the annual budget. The $102,246,240 will continue to grow each year at the medical inflation compounded growth rate. The liability has been hidden from the public, and secretly maintained in off balance sheet liabilities. The unfunded liability is directly attributed to the School Board’s ineffective dealings with their unions, to the detriment of the taxpayer who must pay the bill.
Of course, health care obligations are just the tip of the iceberg. The next huge unfunded liability is guaranteed pensions; guaranteed by your taxes. Although the pension system is mandated by New York State, the salaries, upon which pensions are based, are negotiated by the School Board. When the District receives over 500 applications for elementary positions and most high school positions, the argument that we must pay over $100,000 plus another $30,000 in benefits for quality employees is bogus. In fact, in a system where tenure protects the most incompetent employee, the argument borders on the ridiculous.
As we enter the year of contract negotiations, the School Board must take a stand on the side of the taxpayer. The friendly relationship between the School Board and their unions has forced people out of their homes. The School Board must hold the line on new taxes and all unions must understand that higher salaries and benefits will lead to job loss.
It is imperative that all residents support the 2% tax cap proposed by Governor Cuomo and State Senator Martins. Our Assemblywoman, Michele Schimel has yet to commit to the taxpayer. She continues to vacillate, as does, Sheldon Silver, her pro New York City leader. Her non-stand should be remembered when she comes up for re election.
She may be contacted at SchimelM@assembly.state.ny.us. 516 482 6986
Meeting Date: 01/06/2011
An Open Letter to the Manhasset School Board:
Attached are copies of the latest reports from The Empire Center For New York State Policy entitled New York’s Exploding Pension Costs and Iceberg Ahead: The Hidden Cost of Public-Sector Retiree Health Benefits in New York.
Both of these reports outline an unsustainable fiscal future for NYS and the Manhasset School District.
Especially noteworthy in the Exploding Pension Costs report is the chart on p 5 plotting participant contributions with taxpayer “obligations”. In the Iceberg Ahead report is the very important fact on p2 that public sector retiree health benefits, unlike pensions, are not guaranteed by the State Constitution. Elected officials can still change course on retiree health care by restructuring benefits for both current retirees and active employees.
The facts are simple: there is not enough money available to underwrite these “obligations” that were promised by past political forces. Increasing taxes is not a solution. The projected future is eye-opening and devastating. Please share these reports/printouts with your colleagues as we begin 2011.
Iceberg report available at:
Exploding Pension Costs report available at:
Meeting Date: 05/06/2010
Letter to the Manhasset Press May 6, 2010
VOTING THE SAME OLD, SAME OLD
There is no doubt that Ms. Rule and Mr. Anderson are very nice people, as stated numerous times by their constituents’ in numerous letters to the Manhasset Press. However, they are closely associated with current and prior school board failed policies and flawed decisions. As we prepare to vote on the school budget and board candidates, a review of those decisions and policies are in order.
1. The board negotiated a contract with their union which provides for unlimited sick leave for 210 tenured employees. Last year, 34% of tenured personnel were ABSENT TWO WEEKS OR MORE AND 17% WERE ABSENT THREE WEEKS OR MORE in a 180 day work year (Manhasset School District, FOIL, January 26, 2010). Excessive personnel absences seriously disrupt the continuity of instruction for Manhasset students and are an extra expense for the taxpayer. The Superintendent who supervises district personnel has not yet put an end to this abuse.
2. In addition to unlimited sick leave, the 2008-2009 contract negotiated by the board increased personnel salaries by 26%, on average, over the four year period. The contract includes guaranteed pensions, lifetime health benefits and ironclad job security. Considering there are hundreds of well qualified job applicants for most open position, it may be time to renegotiate the union contract to reflect the market
3. The board drafted annual budgets based on inaccurate revenue estimates that produced a glut of surpluses. Surpluses for the past 6 years totaled $24,592,000. The money was tucked away in an array of obscure reserve accounts rather than used to reduce taxes as recommended by New York State. “The problem isn’t that there’s a surplus. It’s that they’re not returning it to the taxpayer. They’re treating excess taxes as profits.” (Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2010, A24)
4. The Manhasset School Board’s transportation outsourcing cost the Manhasset taxpayer approximately $8.5 million. When concerned residents questioned the outsourcing process, the board closed down communication citing attorney-client privilege. Residents deserve accountability.
5. New York State is broke. Nassau County is broke. Real unemployment (including underemployed) has been 17% for the past year. The consumer price index increased by 27% over a ten year period but the cost of education on Long Island increased by72% (LI Index Report, 2007), due to generous contracts negotiated between school districts and their teacher-supervisory unions. As a result of the Manhasset School Board’s largess, we are now asked to approve a "SMALL INCREASE" in the school budget when the inflation rate is minus .4%. “SMALL INCREASES” compounded annually in a deflationary economy lead to confiscatory taxes and a real burden for many families. If salaries were frozen there would be less need for a “small increase” in the budget.
6. The proposed school budget increase is 2.98% and the tax levy increase in 1.23%. So how much will our taxes increase? It could be 3%, 4%, 5% or more. It depends on variables such as “increasing enrollment”, state aid, commercial real estate taxes and your specific share based on your property assessment. It seems unreasonable to be asked to approve a school tax increase, without knowing the cost for individual homeowners?
7. We do know that during this school board-budget campaign, a trial balloon was floated. We are hearing of “increasing enrollment”, most likely as a prelude to massive tax increases. This year enrollment throughout the District will increase by 61 students, and our budget, if passed, will increase by $2,418,398. That represents $39,645.88 for each new student. Surely, the board can integrate 61 students into four schools in various grade levels without spending $39,645.88 per student.
8. Roslyn, Port Washington, Half Hollow Hills, Brentwood and other Long Island Districts have accepted a salary freeze. The voters of New Jersey have said "ENOUGH". Here in Manhasset, our board, through their spokesperson, the Superintendent, stated that any salary freeze would be an act of magnanimity on the part of the union. In this leadership vacuum, a NO vote can force the board and union to come to terms with the economic crisis and accept a salary freeze.
THIS YEAR, a NO Vote on the school budget will mean NO increase in the school budget and LESS TAXES for you and your family. THIS YEAR we do not need the same old, same old policies and friends of the board. THIS YEAR there are four candidates for two open positions on the school board. We need a YES vote for new ideas, new direction and new faces on the school board.
THIS YEAR you really should VOTE on May 18.
Meeting Date: 04/22/2010
Letters to the Manhasset Press April 22, 2010
Catastrophic, Devastating, Draconian
“It’s for the children”
“We have no control over mandates that increase taxes”
“A NO vote would be catastrophic-draconian-devastating”(choose one)
Perhaps we should analyze some of these clichés, again.
1. “It’s for the children” - The Board through their spokesman, the superintendent, claims that the 2008-2010 union contract increased salaries by 14.09 percent. They failed to mention that the 14.09 percent increase was in addition to built-in automatic, salary increases averaging another 12 percent over four years, for an average grand total salary increase of 26.09 percent over the contract’s four years. Why isn’t the board demanding that the union freeze salaries, which would offer some relief to the families and their children in this serious economic crises. Instead, the Board through their spokesperson stated that it would be magnanimous for their unions to forgo a portion of their average 26.09 percent salary increase even as many districts including Roslyn and Port Washington have taken a salary freeze. For the Superintendent’s magnanimous leadership on this issue, the Board extended his contract “for good behavior”. Has anyone looked at the downward trend of AP scores lately? The increase in salaries has not helped improve AP test scores for the children.
2. “We have no control over mandates”: Not true. The most expensive “mandate” is the union contract. When the Board negotiates a union contract, it creates a mandate that must be paid by the community. Remember the $7,925,000 bus driver fiasco. The costliest items in the school budget are annual salary increases of approximately 26.09 percent over four years, benefits and sick days, which are negotiated by the Board in secret and paid by the community. For the Board to claim they have no control over mandates is disingenuous. The board negotiates the contract and the contract mandates and the community pays.
3. “A NO vote would be catastrophic, draconian, devastating.” Actually, a NO vote will result in a 2.65% OR $2.1 million school budget reduction. Imagine that, a budget reduction. Maybe some of our struggling neighbors would be able to stay in their homes. On the other hand, the board and their unions would have to choose. - Should they negotiate a freeze on salaries or should they layoff personnel and cut programs? If they really care about the children, the children’s’ families and the community, they will take the salary freeze.
Finally, if you are satisfied with clichés, rising taxes and lower scores, vote for the Board and the Union’s choice: Regina Rule and Craig Anderson. You will get more of the same.
Business as usual is not acceptable
Perhaps I'm hallucinating but I thought we were in the midst of the worst financial times since the Great Depression. Yet I see that the Manhasset School District is proposing at least a 5 percent real increase in the budget and an $10.0 million dollar Capital Improvement Program! One would have thought that the school community (Board, Teachers, Parents, staff etc.) would at least hold the line with a budget-to-budget increase of zero.
There are empty stores on Plandome Road and Northern Blvd. Bank accounts and CD's are paying almost no interest. Housing prices remain low and the stock market is still well below what it was prior to this recession. Unemployment is at a historic high. In short people and businesses are still hurting. Yet the Board or Education is proposing a budget which essentially guarantees the teachers and staff their raises without any layoffs. Teachers will get an enormous increase in their compensation when you factor in their fringe benefits. The non professional staff will not be far behind. No program or activity will be cut regardless of merit. That leaves the taxpayer to take yet another hit.
Business as usual is not acceptable.
Meeting Date: 08/03/2008
Empire Center Launches Transparency Website
New Yorkers will get a clearer view than ever of how their state and local tax dollars are being spent, thanks to a new transparency website launched today by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.
The website – www.SeeThroughNY.net – initially offers searchable databases of the following public information:
· the entire payroll of more than 263,000 state government employees, cross-referenced by name, title, branch of government and agency;
· current teachers’ union contracts and superintendent of schools’ contracts for nearly all of New York State’s 733 school and BOCES districts;
· operating expenditures by both houses of the New York State Legislature; and
· the Legislature’s pork-barrel “member items” spending for 2008-09.
The site will expand in the near future to include more payrolls, expenditures, contracts and other information from a variety of New York government entities, according to Edmund J. McMahon, director of the Empire Center.
“SeeThroughNY is designed to become the hub of a statewide network through which taxpayers can share, analyze and compare data from local governments and school districts throughout New York,” McMahon said.
McMahon noted that 2008 already has seen the launching of two government-run transparency websites in New York. Project Sunlight (www.sunlightny.com), sponsored by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, includes information related to campaign finance, legislation, lobbying activity, and recipients of state government contracts. Open Book New York (www.osc.state.ny.us/openbook/index.htm), launched in June by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, provides an up-to-date listing of state vendor contracts, along with expenditure summaries for state agencies.
“Project Sunlight and Open Book were significant steps forward for transparency and accountability in New York, but we still have a long way to go,” McMahon said.
SeeThroughNY is the first state and local transparency site to be independently sponsored and maintained by a private, non-partisan organization. The payroll, school district contract, and legislative expenditure data on SeeThroughNY has never before been available to New Yorkers in a searchable format on the Internet.
The Empire Center is a project of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, one of the nation’s leading non-profit think tanks, which supports all of the Center’s work.
Meeting Date: 04/04/2008
Union Contract Provides a Raise on a Raise
When the school district announced the Union Contract agreement of 3.35 percent, it failed to announce that the 3.35 percent salary increase was a raise on a raise. Once again the announced salary increase was grossly misleading and perhaps another example of the school district's lack of transparency that keeps homeowners in the dark. The real cost to the taxpayer may be in excess of 6-10 percent each year over the life of the four-year contract. Knowing the real cost of the negotiated union contract is key to understanding our future.
Most residents think competent teachers deserve a decent salary for their good efforts and I happen to agree with this thought. However, many residents don't know teachers' future annual raises over the next 30 years are scheduled out for them thanks to a very savvy, ironclad union contract that provides raises based on 1) longevity - more years more salary increases up to 7 percent per year, and 2) college credits and degrees - more credits and degrees translate into raises of 20 percent or more. The new contract's 3.35 percent salary increase is simply in addition to the already existing scheduled raises that are given regardless of merit and in spite of the fact that the district is inundated with resumes from New York State certified teachers looking for positions. In short, teachers get automatic, irrevocable and ever increasing raises which have nothing to do with merit. Nor do tenured teachers get fired for incompetence.
Long-term teachers also receive 70 percent of their highest annual salary as an annual pension for life. The pension compounds the cost of the annual salary raises, since the higher the salary, the higher the pension. On top of the contract's raise on the scheduled raises, the taxpayer pays healthcare cost, which the school district has admitted will increase by 10 percent a year for each of the next four years. Apparently, teachers are provided lifetime healthcare at a taxpayer cost of about $1,000,000 per teacher.
Homeowners have become fairly astute and understand that as teacher's compensation increases so do their taxes in fairly equal proportions. As such, the school board's announcement of a 3.35 percent annual salary increase for the next four years may have inadvertently provided false hope that future tax increases may in the 3.35 percent range. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Meeting Date: 03/21/2008
Letter to the Editor
The Unfortunate Manhasset Taxpayer
The Manhasset School Board's generosity is becoming legendary among Long Island administrators. The Manhasset School superintendent's recent 19 percent salary increase makes his salary greater than the salaries of the NYS governor, the NYC mayor and NYC School Chancellor Klien. It should be noted that Manhasset holds the distinction of having two superintendents; the second superintendent earns approximately $800 per diem. If the school board is so generous to its superintendents, why then should they hold back when negotiating a contract with the teachers union? A cursory examination of the union contract reveals that the school board, as is their custom, did not hold back with the taxpayer's money.
The unfortunate reality for the taxpayer is that the well-publicized 3.35 percent yearly salary increase negotiated by the union and the board is the opposite of reality and represents only the tip of the iceberg. The real raise is much higher. For example, a hypothetical third grade teacher with a bachelor's degree gets an irrevocable automatic raise of 7 percent upon completion of the fourth year in the district. The new contract adds another 3.35 percent to the 7 percent bringing the total raise for the year to an astounding 10.35 percent.
If, during the same year, the teacher got a master's degree in elementary education, there is another raise of 23.35 percent on top of the 10.35 percent. The actual raise for this elementary teacher with four years seniority would be an astounding 33.7 percent raise in one year alone.
What the school board has omitted from the well-publicized announcement touting a 3.35 percent annual raise is the fact that the 3.35 percent annual raise is in addition to the annual automatic raises teachers get based on seniority.
Meeting Date: 02/28/2008
School Board Has Responsibility to Taxpayer
The public outcry to the 19 percent increase in the superintendent's salary prompted the Manhasset School Board to issue a self-serving press release seven months after the fact, in an attempt to explain the scandalous $40,000 raise to someone of such short service. Their attempt to justify their actions clearly illustrates a lack of understanding that they are stewards of public funds. Even though the school board has an arsenal of letter writers and access to public relations consultants, the press release fell short of its intended purpose, which was to exonerate the board from any wrongdoing. In fact, the press release only emphasized the board's lack of transparency and accountability to the public.
Apparently the board does not comprehend the simple fact that the money they give away is public money and they have a responsibility to the taxpayer to openly discuss the merits of a 19 percent annual rise for their administrator. When they decided not to go public in July 2007, they demonstrated poor judgment and poor use of public funds. They did not improve the quality of education "for the children." They only increased the cost for the entire community. One can only wonder what else had been swept under the rug.
The magnitude of the raise given the declining economy, the attempt to blame Albany for the spending crisis when the school board approved the raise, the failure of the board to disclose the raise in a meaningful and timely manner are indicative of financial irresponsibility. I trust his will become an issue for any school board member considering re-election on May 20.
MPSA will continue to investigate examples of the board's largesse with public money. We invite the public to visit the MPSA website in manhassetpsa.com for additional information.
Meeting Date: 02/01/2007
Long Term Business Plan
MPSA a proponent to long term planning for school district operations believes there is overwhelming community supports for the School District to adopt through School Policy a Long Term Business Plan. At a minimum, such a Policy would provide homeowners guidance what to expect in terms of future tax increases for the next five years; and the underlying school activities affecting such tax increases. In addition to community support, there appears to be support by the school districts own CAC for Finance (see April 27, 2006 Manhasset Press) and Superintendent (see November 4, 2005 Manhasset Press).
Infrastructure building spending, subject to a 2/7/07 Referendum, should be clearly based on information affecting the long-term view of school activities. As such, given the school districts independent consultant’s long term enrollment study, which clearly states over the next decade school enrollment will approximate 2800 students while there will be capacity for 3562, thus 762 or 20% of all seats will be empty; one would expect there be little argument for building spending related to “increasing enrollment”. Yet the School Board is still discussing building expansion.
Most reasonable homeowners would agree the lack of long term planning and related lack of information has led to unnecessary confusion and disagreements among homeowners. The October 2006 Munsey Park and Norgate Propositions is an example of the adverse affect on the community that resulted from the lack of long term planning.
MPSA encourages the Community to support our efforts requiring the School District, through School Policy, adoption of a Long Term Business Plan in which both academics and spending is addressed for the next five years.