Readers Write: A bet on increased spending by Port schools

I’m looking for a Port Washington resident to take a bet with me.

The bet concerns the next Port Washington school district proposed school budget, which will cover the school year beginning July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.

We will be voting on that proposed budget in May of this year.  If I win the bet, you have to buy me the best steak and lobster dinner that they offer at Bryant & Cooper, or at Peter Luger’s. If you win the bet, I must buy you that dinner at one of those places.

What’s the bet? Earlier this week, Gov. Hochul announced that New York State has so many extra funds on hand that she proposes increasing state aid to all Long Island school districts for next year by a total of $442,320,067 (that’s $442 million, plus), or by 12.29%.

Newsday, on Thursday the 20th, published a detailed comparative schedule (Page A10) of proposed state school aid for next year and the actual amounts of state school aid received by L.I. districts for the current school year.

State aid for our Port Washington school district is scheduled to increase by a whopping 20.25%, or by $2,585,344, from the current amount of $12,768,664 to $15,354,008 for next year. (For ease of conversation, let’s call the proposed increase in state school aid to be $2.6 million.)

My school tax bill (and yours) for the current school year, 2021-2022, tells me that the Port Washington school district levied a total of $150,398,819 (that’s $150 million, plus) in school taxes on our community for this school year.

That amount included an increase in the levy of 2.21% over the prior year’s levy. That $150,398,819 amount represents the maximum school tax that our school officials could levy on our community, under the tax levy cap law, for the current school year.

Our New York State comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, recently announced that the maximum basic percentage increase in the school tax levy for the next school year, 2022-2023, is limited to 2.0%.

Under the law, the annual basic percentage increase in the levy is limited to the lesser of the percentage increase in inflation or 2.0%.

However, under the law, each school district is allowed to make certain adjustments to that basic percentage increase and I believe that in the case of Port Washington, that our allowable adjusted percentage increase in the school tax levy for next year will be at least 2.50%.

Okay, so what’s the bet? I’m guesstimating that the maximum allowable school tax that can be levied against our community for next year will be $154,158,792, which is $150,398,819 X 102.50%.

Thus, I’m guesstimating that the school tax that will be levied against our community for next year will be increased by a whopping $3,759,972 over our current tax levy (that’s approximately $3.8 million), even though our school district will be receiving additional state aid of almost $2.6 million for the year.

I believe that our school officials are so greedy that they will ask our community to approve, in May, whatever the maximum school tax levy increase can be for next year, while they don’t mention the fact that our school district is about to receive a whopping almost $2.6 million increase in state aid. And that’s the bet.

I’m guesstimating that our greedy school officials will propose a school budget increase of approximately $6.4 million for next year, to take into account a $3.8 million proposed increase in the school tax levy, plus the surprising newly found increase in state school aid of approximately $2.6 million.

If you think that our school officials (that’s our school board and our top school administrators) will do otherwise, will you take the bet?

If you think that it will be difficult for our school officials to account for a proposed spending increase of approximately $6.4 million for next year, I don’t think that it will be a difficult matter for them to stretch the truth about.

Mrs. Callahan, our recently retired long-time assistant superintendent for business, had the slippery, sleight of hand skills to account for such an increase, very easily. Ms. O’Hara, who is our new assistant superintendent for business, may take a little longer to phony up the figures.

You can be sure that our school officials will claim that even though our student enrollment is declining slightly, we still need more elementary school teachers, more middle school teachers and more high school teachers, and of course, we will also need more guidance counselors, more administrative staff, more security personnel and more building maintenance staff.

Our school officials will claim that many of these proposed increases in personnel are required because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You don’t have to eat lobster and steak if you don’t care for it, while I eat mine.


Joel Katz

Port Washington

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