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Apr 4, 2012 12:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Remsenburg-Speonk Budget Will Break Tax Cap Despite Teacher Concessions

Apr 5, 2012 12:27 PM

Salary concessions from its teachers union will not be enough to prevent the Remsenburg-Speonk School District from piercing the state’s new tax levy cap if it wishes to maintain current programming, School Superintendent Dr. Ronald Masera announced at an emergency community forum held at the elementary school on Monday evening.

At the standing-room-only meeting, which attracted about 140 people and lasted approximately two hours, Dr. Masera announced that the current version of the district’s proposed $12.5 million 2012-13 budget comes with a 6.85-percent increase on the tax levy—shattering the 2 percent cap that the state is implementing for the first time this year. The proposed plan, which would increase overall spending by $343,379, or approximately 2.8 percent over the current year’s $12.2 million budget, comes with a tax levy of $11.7 million, up from just under $11 million this year, according to district officials.

Therefore, if Board of Education members opt to adopt the $12.5 million budget, at least 60 percent of district taxpayers, or a supermajority based on the state’s new standards, would have to sign off on the spending plan on May 15. Last year, voters in Remsenburg and Speonk narrowly approved the school budget by a vote of 198-179; such a vote next month will equal a failed budget under the new state rules.

If they opt to pierce the cap and the budget is voted down, board members still have the option of revising their spending plan and holding a second vote. The difference this year is, if that happens and the budget is rejected a second time, school officials must then adopt a spending plan that has a zero-percent increase on the tax levy.

“I think that if the parent base is mobilized, and people go out and grab their friends, and they understand the situation, I think we can get [the supermajority],” said Dr. Masera after Monday’s meeting. “I think we still have work to do. Hopefully, we can get the numbers down a little bit more, but I think that we have a supportive community.”

According to Dr. Masera, the levy would have been much higher if not for salary concessions made by the district’s teachers. The teachers, who had been working without a contract for the past 10 months, finally agreed to a new contract earlier this week that is valid through the 2012-13 school year. As a part of that accord, teachers 
have agreed to forgo a pay increase for the current and the 2012-13 school years, as well as their contractual steps for next year.

While he does not know how much the concessions will save the district, Dr. Masera thanked the teachers for being amenable. “I have to thank the teachers because that is a big thing to give back,” he said during the meeting, which was followed by a round of applause from audience members.

The superintendent also stressed that the proposed spending plan could still be tweaked prior to its adoption, tentatively set for Monday, April 16.

The current version of the $12.5 million spending plan calls for the elimination of three full-time and one part-time teaching position at the elementary school. The board will not replace one full-time teacher who is retiring at the end of the school year and intend to lay off one special education teacher and a teaching assistant. A part-time speech teacher will also be let go. Dr. Masera also announced that there will be spending cuts in teaching supplies, technology upgrades, textbooks, transportation and non-mandated special education services.

Also at Monday’s meeting, it was announced that the estimated tax rate for next year is expected to increase by about 35 cents, or nearly 7 percent, from $5.01 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to approximately $5.36. Therefore, a taxpayer whose home is assessed at $1 million can expect to pay about $5,360 in school taxes next year, or $350 more than the current year.

Most of those in attendance Monday night said they were in favor of exceeding the tax cap if the current spending allows the district to preserve most of its programming for children. One Remsenburg resident, Christian Killoran, who has three children in the district, said he believes that parents should take a proactive approach in ensuring that the budget passes.

“I am 100 percent for this budget and for piercing the cap in order to preserve everything that was discussed,” Mr. Killoran said during the community input portion of the meeting. “When I look at the budget, I don’t look and see a bunch of itemized expenses. I see itemized investments—investments in our kids. We are not talking about adding an extra wing to the school or a new building—we are talking about preserving the status quo.”

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Dr Masera's answer is too get your friends together and vote for breaking the
tax cap? Is that the answer every year to keep breaking the cap? The continual kicking of the can down the road is unacceptable. Parents of students like to live their lives above their means and think the district should do the same. It's ironic that people believe more spending is the answer when in fact it is just destroying future generations with unsubstainable debt.
By chief1 (2392), southampton on Apr 4, 12 9:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
The R-S budget has gone from 9.5 million in 2001 to 12.5 million that is an increase of 30 percent over 10 years. The districts spends about 2.8 million on special ed services evan though there are very few kids that can be deemed as in need of these services. The money is being spent so that the district can show everyone that they have the highest test scores of any district. That's great but is also a waste of money Do the mathe there are approx 180 kids in district and 180 kids going out of ...more
By maxwell (169), speonk on Apr 5, 12 11:35 AM
2 members liked this comment
Seems that the tuition that Westhampton schools is charging is one of the major problems. I think WH schools should consider what things will be like without the Rems / Speonk kids and adjust accordingly. Dr Masera should use this as his ace. Regarding special ed funding, must other schools are dreadfully underfunded in this area. One of things that make Rems school so great is that they allocate funds to kids with special needs with the a goal of really helping. Other schools allocate just enough ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 7, 12 10:22 AM
2 members liked this comment
See that, Phil. We can agree on somethings too. Thanks.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 9, 12 1:01 PM
Why does a 2.8% $343K increase in spending require a 6.85% $700K increase in taxes?
By rburger (76), Remsenburg on Apr 9, 12 1:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
Does anyone notice a trend here?

Municipalities all over the East End, and perhaps LI, are enacting legislation to pierce the NYS tax cap limit, and not just by small percentage increases.

There is a larger scale problem taking shape here IMO, and the outcome does not look healthy.

If the worldwide economy takes another turn down again, . . . . .

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle
By Nero (248), Sag Harbor on Apr 9, 12 2:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Print Print Print

Currency Currency Currency

Debauch Debauch Debauch

Fail, Fail, Fail...
By Mr. Z (10018), North Sea on Apr 9, 12 4:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Again, I understand the concerns. What I am saying is the amount the school is asking for per household is rather small in relation to what we, the community, get out of it. We are talking about a $14 increase per month for a $500,000 home. Yes, I have children in the school so my opinion is not without bias. However, when I compare what I have out here for $4200 a year in taxes to what someone is getting for $9000 in Babylon, then I can't help but feel fortunate. I think that we can and I think ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 9, 12 4:54 PM
And Nero feel free to fiddle through the streets of Sag Harbor. My guess is you don't know anything about, nor do you have any vested interest in Rems/Speonk school.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 9, 12 4:57 PM
double standard,

You are correct. Please note that the comment posted above was more general in nature.

Municipal budgets including school districts are in real trouble IMO.

Any budget problems or not in your school district are debatable, but are only the tip of the iceberg IMO.
By Nero (248), Sag Harbor on Apr 9, 12 5:27 PM
Sadly yes. In our district it is my gut feeling the cap request will fail. I don't know about other districts, but I do know about this one. A lot of the money goes to WH school in terms of tuition. You know them, right? The beautiful lighted football field with the new artificial turf. I wonder where the priorities are. It stinks because the focus is always on the teachers and the admin, never on the student.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 9, 12 6:12 PM
It has been my experience that solid athletic programs, especially competitive ones, can and do attract students to a district.

The football team did pretty well last year, and that's usually one of your bigger attractions. With sports like a cherry on top of a solid curriculum, you can't go wrong. Been there, got that.
By Mr. Z (10018), North Sea on Apr 9, 12 9:45 PM
I'm not interested in debating the merits of athletic programs. I love sports and played them my entire life. It's just hard to digest the idea that a community that can afford a million dollar ball field somehow can't afford things directly tied to education. I try to examine every issue honestly. IMO the we can and should approve what the school is asking for. The tax increase is minimal and our overall tax burden is about a third of what others pay up Island. For whatever reason people have drawn ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 10, 12 11:19 AM
Well, with some people a nickel is a nickel, period.

I think the distrust has to do less with how much is spent, and more to do with how it is spent. Negotiating things like benefits, and perks for themselves that the other 70% of the country don't get can make people angry. Especially when it's those 70% that pay for your compensation.
By Mr. Z (10018), North Sea on Apr 10, 12 3:56 PM
I hear you. So complete transparency is the answer? It seems to me that the arguments here are
A. Reduce the compensation for the teachers
B. Reduce the services provided to kids with special needs.

A. is unlikely
B. is unwise
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 10, 12 5:34 PM
1 member liked this comment

HAVE THE TEACHERS CONTRIBUTE 50% of their health insurance and pension costs.

Do not pierce the tax cap, make due with the monies available, the taxpayer isn't a bottomless pit!
By bigfresh (3386), north sea on Apr 9, 12 5:02 PM
No, but you sure are
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Apr 10, 12 11:43 AM
Are you kidding me Mr Z? Kids are there for education not athletics. How many of the prior grads are professional players? How many are accountants, doctors, professionals? Yes a good athletic program but such a large share of the funds? Artificial turf? Lighted fields? Give me a break. Any family that moves to this district for the athlethic program has their priorites messed up. Wasted money from a deceptive Board of Education. And the teachers- they need to contribute to their retirement and ...more
By realistic (413), westhampton on Apr 10, 12 8:38 AM
Sans corporea insana capitis.

I have no argument with the last sentiment. However, athletic activity is just as vital as academics. Especially considering the obesity epidemic in this country. Many of my fellow alumni moved on to college via athletics, and the scholarship money it brought them. You don't have to become a professional sports player, for physical activity and the spirit of competition to be a positive factor in your life. As a matter of fact, the amount of neurons in ...more
Apr 10, 12 3:51 PM appended by Mr. Z
Oh, and might I add that playing under the lights on a Friday night, blows the DOORS off playing a Varsity game on a Saturday afternoon. It's as American as Mom, and apple pie outside of this Galapagos.
By Mr. Z (10018), North Sea on Apr 10, 12 3:51 PM
Yes and you are breathing in to many toxins from the grass. A decade goes real fast then it has to be dug up, disposed of, and replaced. Amoritize the costs and you will get the picture. I also don't see any reduction in man hours from the maintenance staff. As far as obesity is concerned I look at photos from my youth in the 50s and notice all were thin and didn't have anything more then gym class let alone the fluff the kids have today. A great idea would be a usage tax for those who use it.
By realistic (413), westhampton on Apr 10, 12 5:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
Crap, mean to hit reply.

Replacement of turf, is FAR less expensive than initial installation.

And, frankly that was then, this is now. They invented super-concentrated corn syrup, and a whole lot of other junk called "food" since your "heyday".
By Mr. Z (10018), North Sea on Apr 10, 12 10:26 PM
The amount of money Remsenburg spends on special ed is outrageous. There are parents who have specifically RENTED here so that their children can get all the services this school provides (which other schools do not). Some don't live in Remsenburg at all. The school is overloaded with special ed teachers who (guess what?) cost more. This is not the fault of the current leadership. This happened under Dr Salomone. No-one is saying don't give the help, but its time the school backed off these costs ...more
By local12 (34), Remsenburg on Apr 10, 12 4:47 PM
How much should be spent per child with special needs? Do you want to make a difference or say that you are trying to make a difference? Have you ever met a rich special ed teacher?
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 10, 12 5:26 PM
Really? I had no idea. Thanks for that info.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 12, 12 11:47 AM
Good to know. Thank you.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 12, 12 1:09 PM
I just want to know what local12 considers appropriate spending for special education. Let's say the stated goal is to get kids to the point that they no longer need assistance. Does that cost $5,000? Does that cost $50,000? If the goal is not met at $5000 then do you walk away? If that's the case then why bother spending a dollar? Does child A need $10,000 in assistance? If so does that mean children B, C and D should only receive the same? The point is there is no formula. You either do what you ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 10, 12 9:26 PM
As I said, no-one is saying don't give the help. I am saying Remsenburg needss to get real and get reasonable. Remsenburg is a school that offers very many services and therefore attracts special ed students so it is going to have much higher costs. People should be clear about why costs at this school are so high. If other schools continue to not offer services and more needy children then come to Remsenburg, I hope you will be similarly happy when you are asked to vote in a 10% tax increase year ...more
By local12 (34), Remsenburg on Apr 11, 12 8:12 AM
You are applying hypothetical (10% tax increase / tidal wave of special education students moving into the district) and using that hypothetical to support a preconceived decision.
Nobody has asked for a 10% increase and I'd vote against it if they did.
I don't see any data that supports your claim re. special needs students flooding the district.
The school states that they need the increase to keep the status quo. It is up to the school to show us the data that supports that claim ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 11, 12 9:28 AM
Why not set a limit, say 50 students, for kids to go to WHB HS and send the rest to ESM. There could be a lottery set up. This way the budget could be reduced in our district.
By tenn tom (187), remsenburg on Apr 11, 12 8:51 AM
True,but paying $9k per student instead of $20k per student equals savings.
By tenn tom (187), remsenburg on Apr 11, 12 10:11 AM
WHB would be devastated. They need the sending students. You cant do that to them.
By realistic (413), westhampton on Apr 11, 12 9:10 AM
Exactly. That's why WHB school district needs to drop that 39% tuition. There are alternatives. WHB budget issues directly effect Rems / Speonk and now the issues are coming to a head. If WHB can't afford not to have Rems kids, then make us an offer that we can't refuse.
Apr 11, 12 9:16 AM appended by double standard
39% of the Rems/Speonk budget goes to tuition. 95% of Rems/Speonk students choose WHB over Eastport Manor. Source RS UFSD website
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 11, 12 9:16 AM
One thing for all to remember it always "only" 3 percent which doesn't sound like alot but year over year over year it adds up. Also health and pension cost are "only"' going up 5 to 10 percent a year. NO one but NO one gets the health care and pensions that school employees get. They must start to contribute their fair share. The average worker would have to save 1.4 million dollars to ensure a retirement income of say 50k per year that these teachers and administrators get (some get 2 or 3 times ...more
By maxwell (169), speonk on Apr 11, 12 1:57 PM
3 members liked this comment
Hard to argue. I'm just looking at it from the position of teachers compensation is what it is, and what can we do to make sure the kids get the same quality of education. If this becomes the people vs. the teachers (compensation) then Rems/Speonk has no chance of breaking that cap.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Apr 11, 12 3:58 PM
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