Give Port Washington Schools Our Fair Share of the Pie
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Senator Elaine Phillips
252 Mineola Boulevard
Mineola, New York 11501
Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso
45 North Station Plaza Suite 203
Great Neck, New York 11021
Dear Senator Phillips and Assemblyman D’Urso,
As a member of the Port Washington School District community, I am writing on behalf of our school district, our students and our taxpayers to ask for your assistance. Despite the efforts of a supportive community, and a fiscally prudent Board of Education and administration, community residents can no longer afford to bear more than their fair share of the tax burden.
Port Washington taxpayers are currently funding 89 percent of the cost of public education through real estate property taxes and assessments, while our district receives only 6 percent in state aid compared to the average aid statewide of 41.6 percent. As our needs become greater, and our options to further reduce expenditures diminish, community residents are calling upon you to work on our behalf to ensure that Port Washington Schools receive an equitable amount of state aid.
Statewide student enrollment continues to decline. However, since 1998, Port Washington’s enrollment has grown to 5,579 students, an increase of approximately 34 percent. This increase far surpasses any of our neighboring school districts and projections indicate these increases will continue. During that same time, our community has become more diverse. Forty-three languages are now spoken in the Port Washington community. As our student population increases, their needs become more challenging, both in the areas of academics and support services. Students speaking more than 20 languages are serviced by our schools’ English as a New Language departments, while the number of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch has increased to 21 percent. The number of students receiving special education services, as mandated by law, has increased to 14.8 percent.
Since the state’s tax cap was imposed, our school district’s Board of Education and administration have successfully established annual school budgets that remain within the mandated tax cap. Our district has struggled to minimize the tax burden on community residents and in the process has been forced to make several difficult decisions based on economics rather than what may be in the best interests of our students and community. They include: reducing staff despite a 6.2 percent increase in enrollment; increasing class sizes; cutting non-mandated programs to fund core services; reducing expenditures for the arts and athletic programs; implementing a staggered bus schedule; and reducing staff and classroom time for the district’s elementary enrichment program.
Despite these efficiencies, community residents, who value the quality of our schools, are still paying more than our fair share of taxes. There are several areas we believe need to be addressed including the Foundation Aid Formula, which does not take into consideration Port Washington’s economic diversity, yet if fully implemented, would double Port Washington’s foundation aid; and the revision of the Tax Cap calculation to factor in enrollment growth and inflation.
We very much appreciate and thank you for your past support of the Port Washington schools. Our community looks forward to working with you, as our legislative representatives, on the urgent need to reduce the tax burden on community residents by ensuring that our schools receive our fair share of state aid.
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