Voters Face Tough School Budget Choices

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    With state cuts to education aid, voters on Long Island have to decide how to shore up schools' budgets.

    The fates of proposed school budgets and school board candidates will be decided Tuesday as voters across New York go to the polls.

    On Long Island, residents in 124 school districts are facing difficult choices that include property tax increases averaging four-percent, 1200 teacher layoffs and education cuts.

    "It's a no win situation," said Jim Zaffiro of Mastic Beach, after voting on the budget proposed in the William Floyd school district.

    The choices in this Brookhaven town school district reflect those facing many Long Island voters.

    William Floyd's proposed $208,000 spending plan would increase taxes nearly 12.5 percent or some $575 dollars a year for the typical homeowner.  The tax increase would be the highest on Long Island.

    The budget also calls for the elimination of 48 teaching jobs and more than 50 other positions as well as cuts to music and athletic programs.

    The alternative isn't much better. 

    If residents vote "no" on the budget, the district's proposed "contingency" spending plan calls for even more layoffs and education cuts and a property tax increase totaling more than nine percent.

    "They've got no conscience, no conscience at all," said Evelyn Green of Shirley.

    "I know everyone is having a difficult time but right now, I think our children should have what they need," countered parent of two Jennifer Graham of Mastic Beach.

    This 'pick your poison' scenario facing voters is the result of cuts in state education aid, according to William Floyd officials.

    William Floyd lost more than $7-million in aid, said superintendent Paul Casciano and the district had to use a mix of cuts and tax increases to offset the loss of that money.

    "For superintendents, this has been a nightmare budget season," said Casciano.

    "People need to vent their anger to the state," said long time school board member Jean Dawson.  "The Governor and elected officials have pulled out of education."

    Critics, however, called the proposed budget, "unfair" to taxpayers, saying district officials could have made better choices to balance the books.

    "We're in a recession," said school board candidate, Joseph Johnson.  "We need to make responsible fiscal conditions."

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo had said that Long Island schools had enough cash in reserve to offset the state's education cuts, but nearly every district proposed increasing property taxes this year.