WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Taxpayers across New York were headed to the polls Tuesday to vote on whether to support or strike down their local school budgets.
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While the New York State United Teachers, which represents more than 600,000 teachers, took to the airways with radio commercials.
Concerned parent Lisa Frey, who has three sons in the Mineola school district, said she was listening.
“It is the most important thing for people to get out there and vote. Our children are the number one priority,” she said.
Behind the scenes there’s a growing debate over what the vote might mean for a proposed statewide property tax cap. Tuesday’s vote could influence the debate among fiscally conservative voters who are concerned about rising school taxes subsequently driving up property taxes.
As towns across the Empire State continue to struggle financially with less revenue and cuts in state aid, they’re also facing pressure to address staffing, pension, and other costs.
“Well you know, the answer can’t always be more money, more money, more money. Can’t be, you can’t have seven percent increases, eight percent increases every year. And by the way, we’ve been spending money we don’t have,” he said.
“I’m for that. I don’t, taxes just keep going up. And there has to be something done to keep it down,” said William Miceli of Mineola.
The situation was especially tenuous on Long Island where Nassau and Suffolk Counties’ school districts were proposing an average tax increase of almost four percent.
In Mineola, a school was closed in order to hold the districts spending increase to just 2.3-percent.
Mineola Superintendent Michael Nagler said there are other costs, from staff salaries and pension obligations that would not be taken into account under the governor’s proposed mandatory spending cap.
“Without some kind of madate relief, you’re going to hurt the program,” he said.
Speaking earlier this school year, Nagler said parents were in a difficult position.
“Our voters are torn. Do we want to be financially and economically sound, or do we want to keep our schools and take a chance that we pass our budget?” he said on October 26 of last year.
Last year, 92-percent of the school budgets passed. This year, an overwhelming majority of the school budgets under consideration are also expected to be approved.
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