Because County Executive Ed Mangano continues to submit budgets that do not increase spending, property taxes remain frozen for the past three years.
Simply stated – school spending is out of control and causing taxes to skyrocket.
Everyone has to do his or her part to rein in expenses and streamline administrative and duplicative functions; the school districts should be no exception. It’s the District’s choice to collect the same amount of tax levy from homeowners so they can continue to provide extraordinarily high salaries and benefits for the bloated school administration.
According to figures released today on Newsday.com, 27 of our school administrators in Nassau – that’s superintendents and assistant superintendents - make over $250,000 a year, just in salary. That’s more than the Governor of New York State! Meanwhile, 101 administrators make more than $200,000 a year and at least 238 make more than the Nassau County Executive, who oversees 1.3 million people.
Nassau’s workers haven’t gotten raises in the last 4 years. Have teachers and administrators still gotten their raises each of the last 4 years? Mangano streamlined County government and it’s allowed him to not raise taxes. But schools have not tightened their belts, except to - in some instances - fire teachers or cancel extracurricular activities.
The county’s assessment system is one of the most transparent in the state. Detailed property and tax information is posted on the Department of Assessment’s website and assessment disclosure notices are provided to all homeowners annually.
The real problem is that there is a tremendous lack of transparency when it comes time to review and vote on school budgets. While the school districts only communicate the percentage of increase from one operating budget to the next, they fail to reveal the estimated tax rates and average tax increases that will result upon their passage.
The bottom line is that homeowners are frustrated and overtaxed. While we continue to work each day to improve the methodologies used to create assessments that are fair and equitable, it’s time to focus on the real impact to voters when the school district budgets are presented to the public.
“When I came in to office, the newly formed Nassau School and BOCES Municipal Savings Initiative was idle. My administration almost immediately jumpstarted the cost-saving, cooperative bidding process that in the first 18-months saved Nassau school districts at least $1.5 million, and another $7 million for the County itself, in shared services purchasing.
Yet, just one district – Great Neck - has participated in all 6 main initiatives put forth by the consortium.
In West Hempstead, deputy schools Superintendent Richard Cunningham had estimated that his district would save $10,000 in one year in actuarial services alone, due to a joint agreement by this committee. The district also has been active for years in cooperative bidding on bus transportation.
One Nassau school superintendent that participates in most of the shared services initiative has said “This is a way to operate more efficiently for less money. We need to explore every avenue of cooperation to do that.”
The savings is based on the basic principal that “the more participation, the lower the cost.” Buy in bulk and save.
But not all districts have accepted our repeated invitations to join various bulk purchase orders of the same equipment and services, and save taxpayer money.
In fact, two districts - East Meadow and Lawrence - did not partake in any of the money saving initiatives offered by the County, and consortium, in the last four years. While 30 districts participate in the consortium’s cooperative natural gas bid, for hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, that means 26 school districts do not participate.
Some school purchasing officials have said they’ve used the shared services bids for leverage with existing vendors and therefore would be listed as formally participating. Others have said they have sometimes gotten better pricing than what’s offered by the county consortium. Still others said they couldn’t join onto some of the initiatives because they either don’t use the service or are already in the middle of a multi-year contract with a different firm.
“I understand if some schools are bound to current contracts ... or if they have their own fueling stations or just flat out receive a better deal through various other options,” said Mangano. “What I don’t understand is why the rest don’t participate when it can clearly help save tax dollars.”
The purchasing consortium was made possible by a $1 million state grant awarded in 2009 to the county and the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in order for it to become a model for the rest of the state.
Mangano is once again pushing for more participation in the program.
Mangano’s proposed 2014 budget, unlike a great many of the schools, reduces spending from last year. The County Executive, through the IDA, continues to bring private sector businesses to Nassau, in order to further expand the tax base to help homeowners.
School districts need to do their part.
Here are the facts on the consortium’s specific initiatives:
In 2010, the County entered into a deal with an ESCO (Hess) to provide natural gas at bulk-rate pricing. Nassau BOCES piggybacked on that contract early on and estimated saving between $60,000 and $70,000 the first year.
The savings to Nassau County was nearly $4 million in natural gas costs the first year, and a total of $7 million by the end of the 2nd year.
Since 2010, 30 School Districts have joined the bid, as did 5 Fire Districts and 4 villages. It’s estimated that the districts have saved anywhere between 6 and 16% on their natural gas costs.
That means that 26 school districts have not taken advantage of this cost-saving initiative. Districts can still sign on for the same prices, until the end of October.
The first eleven school districts to participate in the bid saved a total of more than $61,000 in heating costs that first winter.
SUNOCO/BOLLA BID FOR GASOLINE AND DIESEL FUEL
Only two Nassau school districts are taking advantage of a county initiative to save up to 15 cents a gallon at Sunoco gas stations around the county.
It’s estimated that the 56 districts spend a total of approximately $5 million a year on fuel.
The first 12 school districts that participated in this joint bid were estimated to save about $400,000 on the approximately 188,000 gallons of gas they purchase for district vehicles.
INTERNAL AUDIT SERVICES
Only 6 of the 56 districts joined on to a cooperative bid to save tens of thousands of dollars on state-required internal auditing services.
OUT OF DISTRICT TRANSPORTATION
This was the largest joint school effort to date, with 39 districts participating for out-of-district bussing services since 2010. One district reported saving as much as $258,000 with the bid in the following year.
BUILDING CONDITION SURVEYS
Of Nassau’s 56 public school districts, 23 participated in a cooperative bid for building condition surveys – a service also required by the state.
CELLULAR EQUIPMENT & SERVICE
Nassau County officials enjoyed savings of about $155,000 a month or $2 million a year - on telephone service and supplies, as part of a modernized overhaul of the County's voice communication system - bringing it from Analog to Digital, funded in part by $1.3 million in capital project money.
Savings came when Mangano’s administration discovered they were paying for 1,000 unused phone lines and thousands more of the County's antiquated Analog Centrex lines were replaced with digital circuits, expected to reduce the County's phone bill by at least 50%. Eliminating the contractor that supported the old Analog phone system saved an additional $40,000 a month, as maintenance and repair on the new digital system is now handled in-house by County technicians.
"When it comes to searching for cost-saving measures, we'll leave no stone unturned."