Parents: We'll Pay More to Save Teachers

Commack parents ask the superintendent to present the maximum 2012-13 budget allowable under the governor's tax cap Thursday night.

Commack parents have sent a clear message to school officials: Keeping teachers in the classroom is important, and they might be willing to pay more to do so.

More than 150 district residents attended Commack Superintendent Donald James' special community budget input meeting at Burr Intermediate School on Monday night. Many wanted to know how they could save the district's teachers from falling victim to $4.7 million in budget cuts for the 2012-13 school year. 

"The message I'm trying to send tonight is to go back to the Board and say at the next budget presentation what we can do, what can we propose to save our teachers' jobs. That is what is going to educate our kids," said resident Katherine Finkin. 

James has recommended a $170 million budget for the 2012-13 school  year, representing a 2.6 percent tax levy increase estimated to raise the average homeowner's taxes by $239 to $258 yearly. 

Under this proposed budget, school officials are considering laying off 40 to 60 teachers, one administrator, two secretaries, six custodians and making an additional $700,000 in cuts. The suggested cuts include the elimination of assistant coaches for 16 sports teams, elimination of the varsity swim teams, and elimination of a list of co-curricular clubs and honor societies.

"How are we firing 50 teachers, raising class sizes and not going to the bone everywhere else? This is a school district, it's about educating our children," said one man, who claimed to work in public education for 16 years. "We need to look at what a 4.1 percent budget increase means for our community." 

His comments were answered by resounding applause, and partial standing ovation.

The superintendent's proposed $170 million budget is significantly less than the district's maximum allowable within Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new property tax cap legislation. Commack school district, once calculating in exemptions and growth factors under a state formula, could raise the tax levy by 4.1 percent, or a $172 million budget, and be under the tax cap. 

Several parents said they want to know what a 4.1 percent tax levy increase would mean for Commack schools next year, specificly how many teachers and programs could be saved. James did not have those numbers readily available. 

"I don't think it's a secret, and you may not like me saying this, but there are other people who don't want us to go over percent, nevermind 3 percent or 4 percent. That is what we are hearing," the superintendnet said. 

According to the district's budget packet, handed out at various budget presentations and workshops, a 4.1 percent budget would not prevent cuts. School officials calculate it would take a 6.32 percent tax levy increase, or $174 million budget, to keep all existing programs. 

Parents suggested multiple cuts to generate further savings within the school district such as eliminating the NWEA assessments, ending the online Castle Learning program to no longer sending out printed district calendars. 

If the district were to put forth a $174 million budget, it would exceed the tax cap and would need 60 percent of voters' approval to pass. The average homeowner's yearly school taxes would increase by $580 to $626, according to the district. 

James announced March 16 that he, along with the central administration staff, will be taking. At that time, he encouraged the teachers union and other bargaining units to sit down with the board to find ways to preserve jobs, through attrition or renegotiation of contracts. 

The superintendent announced Monday that all of the school district's bargaining units have stepped forward to talk about possible renegotiation of contracts.

The Commack Board of Education will hold its next budget workshop 8p.m. Thursday at  

Tell us, would you be willing to approve a 4.1 percent tax levy increase, or $172 million budget, to prevent teacher layoffs? 

Jim Tampellini April 01, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Gorky, your a prime example of why certain people shouldn't be allowed to vote.. they are ignorant of the facts and do nothing to educate themselves about them. Instead they vote based on misinformation and misguided beliefs.
chefcristo April 02, 2012 at 01:05 AM
gorky, $20/year?........surely you jest! we've been told: vote YES, it's only $.47/day...for the sake of the children. that's why most of commack's residents pay $12,000-20,000+/year, OVERWHELMINGLY UNAFFORDABLE FOR MANY. for those residents can afford this and will vote yes, then they can afford to send their children to private school or pay for more extensive sports/arts programs out of their own pockets. we can take just so much, then it's time to say "basta"...ENOUGH. A NO VOTE IS IN ORDER.....N...O...W
Commack teacher April 03, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Voting no hurts the kids !!!
Michael April 03, 2012 at 08:03 PM
J.C. April 03, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Voting NO sends a message to stop the waste and blindly giving away raises in a poor economy. No givebacks by teachers and administrators who then cut kids programs hurt the kids - Put the blame where it belongs!!
Michael April 03, 2012 at 08:14 PM
As Rodney Dangerfield used to say..."Whoaaaaaaaaa....tough crowd" :) But so true. When it comes to the school board, "Blind faith, no matter how passionately expressed, will not suffice" Vote No
Gorky April 04, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Yes, that was the wrong figure. $200 to $300 a year increase for the average homeowner was correct for the schools. I will vote yes. My point is that I saw people throwing away all kinds of money on the lottery last week. That is a fact. People waste money in all manner of inane ways. A budget that is voted down, will in the end, cost taxpayers more money. I agree that there are areas that need to be trimmed in school budgets but the idea that anything constructive is happening by voting no is uninformed. How much will you actually save by voting no? I think you will lose. School districts with defeated budgets lead to the lessening in value of your homes, for starters.
Michael April 04, 2012 at 03:40 PM
So vote yes, change nothing? How is a no vote an uninformed vote? I have provided piles of information pointing to areas of waste, poor planning and selfish management. And you think that if I vote yes that will change? The only weapon of change that citizens of this town have at their disposal is a NO vote. I will happily vote NO. The problem with the property value issue is that people "lease" their homes here. They come for the schools, suck up the ridiculous taxes and then get out of dodge after the kids are out of the schools. What a surprise Commack has zero community feel unless its something centered around a school.
J.C. April 04, 2012 at 05:05 PM
So Gorky, what are your ideas to change things? Voting yes just says you are OK with the status quo. At the very least, taxpayers will save $6 million dollars this year when they vote NO as the budget must rise 0%. That will be the wake up call these administrators need to understand the supply of money is not endless. And you people need to stay out of our pockets and not worry how we spend our money. It is OUR money to spend any way we like-lottery tickets or restaurants. What we have left does not belong to governments or mini governments that think they can spend it better than we can.
Re April 05, 2012 at 12:15 AM
The money is there . IF we had a line by line budget you would see some shocking expenditures Tell the school district to open the books and let the many auditors,bankers, accountants and everyone in the town examine it .
Michael April 05, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Re, dont play the smoke and mirrors game. If you have some info that may be useful, ie questionable expenses, say so.
Taxxed April 05, 2012 at 01:15 AM
The line by line is almost as useless as the budget proposals. They are usually loaded with lines of "materials" , "supplies" etc. What you need to see is the check register to actually see who was paid what.
Gorky April 05, 2012 at 08:08 AM
Michael, your concept “that people in Commack lease their homes” is ridiculous and generalized. In my neighborhood there are a number of people who bought their homes 20, 30 years ago and are still here with mortgages paid off and their homes worth 10 to 20 times the original value – that’s thanks to the school district. As someone here said, if you want low taxes move to Deer Park or Wyandanch, where the school districts are cheaper. And JC, a school district on austerity, can, I believe, still have a 2 percent increase. At least it used to, unless the law has changed. So your great “no” vote does not save $6 million. Yes, New Yorkers are overtaxed. And according to my tax bill, the school is 65 percent of the real estate tax. Last year my Real Property tax went up 19 percent, my fire dept went up 4.9 percent, my highway tax went up 2.84 percent and my police went up 2.7 percent. Do you whiners scream about all of these increases or only the schools? Moreover, as far as waste, the biggest problem in NY state are people who earn cash and pay NO taxes. That costs all of us billions of dollars in lost tax revenue. Everything I earn is on the books and I pay a lot of taxes to the state and federal government. So your complaints seem to be that capitalism is failing in America. Forget Wyandanch, you “no voters” should live in Cuba, with its free education and free health care.
chefcristo April 05, 2012 at 01:23 PM
gorky, it is not within your realm to dictate how or why people spend their money. if they prefer to waste it (in your opinion) so be it. if they do not want to spend it on school taxes, also, so be it. and please cease the threats about the value of our homes taking a downward spiral; most "FOR SALE" signs feature "LOW TAXES" as a selling point. enough is totally enough. A NO VOTE FOR ANY.....ANY INCREASE IS IN ORDER.
Michael April 05, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Ok Gorky, last comment directed at you. Its just not worth my time. 10 to 20 times original value? Where do you get numbers from? Dont tell me, I think I know. I bought my home in 1997 for 215K. today its worth in the $450-500K range. Thats 15 years of appreciation. Are you saying that if I had bought my home in 1992 I would have paid only $45-50K for it? Because thats the price that would make my home now worth 10X the price 20 years ago. Once again, methinks you are misguided. Just vote yes.
chefcristo April 05, 2012 at 01:58 PM
michael... NAY is in order for ANY increase. "BASTA!" ENOUGH!
Michael April 05, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I know chef, I know. I was just telling Gorky to vote yes and stop posting threads with "facts" that cant be verified, since that is his position anyway. Im on your side paisan!!! Basta al the way LOL
chefcristo April 05, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Michael, you said a pasta bowl full! the operative word is "BASTA."
GM April 06, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Focus on the Problem. You are the problem! You elected a Board that puts kids 2nd to unions. That is a simple and plain truth. The School Board that has consistently cut electives, programs, clubs, and coaches for 5 years running. This Board takes from the kids side and gives to admins and teachers. It's as simple as that. No analysis needed. This Board is led by the authors of the Hunderfund and Feltman debacles, yet Commack continues to vote for them. Smarten up folks. Dump Incumbent Board members. It's the Board stupid.- gmorgan
Taxxed April 12, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Hope I did this right, But those who said they wanted to help out to change the system Please print the petition at the link and get us signatures for a candidate before Sunday evening. Arrangements will then be made to collect the pages. Leave the top blank for now and feel free to post updates on your progress. https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B3cbjRc1NY_pM3hjR3FRdjVmSnc
Jim Tampellini April 12, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Petitions Must be submitted to the District Clerk before 5pm on Monday April 16 (my prior post incorrectly noted the due date)
GM April 13, 2012 at 12:01 AM
who is the challenger?
chefcristo April 13, 2012 at 12:30 AM
who said voting NO hurts the kids? kids from school districts of lesser quality than commack, AND often on austerity, get into many schools of choice, get sports, music, art, academic scholarships and generally succeed after high school. what might hurt is a bit of extra effort on parents' and kids' parts.
chefcristo April 13, 2012 at 12:39 AM
yea TO MOre of your similar comments! VOTE NO. "it has to end sometime...and the time is now." BASTA!!!!! (look it up if you don't understand italian.)
Taxxed April 13, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Hasn't been decided yet. From what you have stated in past posts you could be a good candidate, interested? Why weren't you at the meeting we had? We need the signatures no matter who runs. Print a copy and get some signatures
GM April 13, 2012 at 04:06 AM
A few years ago a Glenn (and maybe CSH or Garden City) voted down their budgets and forced a negotiation with teachers, etc. The Commack Board uses doomsday scenario to put fear into its residents. It does not have to be the way they present it if budget is voted down.Talk to some friends at Glenn and get some details.
Taxxed April 13, 2012 at 04:03 PM
For those helping out with the petition signatures, we can be contacted at commackvote@gmail.com. Remember, this is a signature only to get a candidate on the ballot and not a vote
Gorky April 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Michael, You base your info on only your home. There are different neighborhoods in this community with different values. A home bought across the street in the 1980s for around $35,000 by the owners who still live there. Just looked through 2011 at home sales in this neighborhood and the average was about 700,000. So, the increase in price on that is about 20 times purchase price. Everything depends on the neighborhood and year purchase, of course. So, you are the one twisting the numbers to suit your “vote down the budget” raison d’etre. As for all the “Italians” speaking Sicilian, how about more French. This is from a poet. His name was Rimbaud, pronounced “Rambo.” “Je meurs de soif, j’etouffe, je ne puis crier. C’est l’enfer, l’eternelle peine.” That is what it is like living here in out here in the provinces. Again, compare the tax rate in America, with that of similar developed countries. Many countries in Europe have income tax rates over 50 percent. So if you want a low tax rate, there’s Russia (13 percent), Albania (10 percent) and the Czech Republic – a great deal at 15 percent. Property taxes, income taxes, sales tax, budget deficits – it’s all the fault of teachers and administrators and everything will be resolved with a “no” vote.
chefcristo April 16, 2012 at 02:14 AM
gorky, regardless of the language you choose, the response to this year's budget vote is NO, NON, NIE, NYET........ANY WAY YOU SAY "NO" OR SPELL IT...PURE AND SIMPLE, THE ANSWER IS NO or to put it another way, ENOUGH...BASTA...that's italian (hey, even in sicilian, which, by the way may have, a somewhat different dialectical pronunciation.) you seem to have a penchant for telling people how to spend their money (lottery players) and where to live (france, albania, czech republic, russia, cuba.) some choose to spend $$ on the lottery, and most prefer to live here in commack, USA, IF ECONOMIC SITUATIONS ARE WITHIN THEIR MEANS. HIGHER TAXES (NO MATTER HOW MUCH HIGHER) ARE LITERALLY CHASING PEOPLE FROM COMMACK, INDEED FROM LONG ISLAND. i really like living here, but i have serious doubts how much longer i'll be able to afford to do so. ahhh, yes, the czech republic sounds exciting. i hope it has a lottery!
Tom Z April 16, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Gorky- what about the guy who bought that same house next door in 2008 for $850,000?


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