Long Island voters are hitting the polls for Super Tuesday to cast their ballots on school budgets for the first time since a 2-percent property tax cap went into effect.
Click here to find out which budget proposals failed.
More than 1,100 teacher and administrative positions could be cut at the same time that classroom sizes are growing and a variety of programs face the chopping block.
School officials were tasked with designing a budget with a tax cap or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. But the tax cap is different for each district because of several of variables including pension costs.
“We collectively believe that districts have held down the tax levy significantly and that the public will recognize the efforts we made and pass the vast majority of the school budgets,” said Alan Groveman, Connetquot Central School District superintendent and the President of Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.
The property tax cap enacted last June requires municipalities to keep property tax increases below 2 percent unless a 60 percent supermajority approves the budget proposal.
According to data from the state Department of Education, 16 Long Island school district’s are proposing budgets that override that cap.
Dr. Herb Brown, Superintendent of Oceanside School District and the President of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents, said his colleagues worked hard to create budgets that fall within the tax limit, but he noted that it was a “real challenge with the tax cap.”
“I think it’s going to get tougher as the years go on,” he added. “I think by year three, four, and five, it’s going to become tougher and tougher to stay within the cap.”
Groveman agreed. “It’s going to get progressively worse especially in the less affluent districts where class sizes are already approaching 35 at the elementary schools,” he said.
While school officials were very critical of the tax cap, the mandate was far from voters’ minds as they headed to the polls.
“I think the school is great,” said Mark Smoller, who voted “yes” for Jericho Public Schools’ budget proposal. “We pay a lot of money for putting out terrific kids.”
Dolores Hoffman, a former teacher, said it would be hard for her to say no to the students.
“I think the administration was very appropriate in its pre-presentation of what the budget was all about before today,” she said. “So that if you were interested in the issue you really couldn’t come here uninformed.”
But another teacher who didn’t want to give her name was very critical of Jericho School Public Schools and decided to vote “no.”
“I just think the school is very wasteful,” she said.
Districts that exceeded the tax cap:
Elmont Union Free School District
Floral Park-Bellerose Union Free School District
North Babylon Union Free School District
Three Village Central School District
Brookhaven-Comsewoge Union Free School District
Sachem Central School District
Mount Sinai Union Free School District
Rocky Point Union Free School District
Middle Country Central School District
Center Moriches Union Free School District
Amagansett Union Free School District
Islip Union Free School District
East Islip Union Free School District
Westhampton Beach Union Free School District
Greenport Union Free School District
Remsenburg-Speonk Union Free School District