Supers: Tax Cap Could Hurt Schools


School Superintendents Robert Shaps and Peter Mustich

The Mamaroneck and Rye Neck schools may not be able to maintain the quality level residents are used to under the new 2% state tax cap, district superintendents say.

Dr. Peter Mustich of Rye Neck and Dr. Robert Shaps of Mamaroneck said at the Local Summit’s Tuesday meeting that the new law takes away local control, puts schools in a financial straight jacket and  continues to subject them to top down spending requirements (mandates) over which they have no say.

The NYS legislature passed the law in June and it was subsequently signed into law by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, who regarded it as a key  accomplishment of his new administration. Proponents touted it as a practical and symbolic means of  keeping the rate of local tax increases down.

Dr. Mustich said that the law will essentially turn Westchester into a borough with the kind of school systems that many former New York City residents moved here to get away from. “The Tax Cap takes local control away and gives it to the state,” he said. “I haven’t been able to reach the Governor in weeks. He doesn’t accept my calls.”

Dr. Shaps said that ongoing state mandates (spending requirements for such things as pensions, health care, transportation and other items), coupled with the tax cap and Federal No Child Left Behind requirements, drain the schools’ resources and make it less  possible  to provide quality education.

Neither school executive expressed much hope that the tax  cap would be overturned. But they did express modest optimism that work by groups of area superintendents and other organizations might reduce mandate pressures.

Both said they recognize that  they will have to better inform the public of the pending crisis and Dr. Shaps told the audience that Mamaroneck schools will hold a presentation and discussion  about the ABC’s of the new tax cap at 7:30 p.m. on December 5th at the Hommocks Library.

Less affluent  school districts will be hardest hit by the tax cap, both said. “There is a  relationship between home prices and quality education,” Dr. Shaps said.

Concerned about underfunded schools,  State Assemblyman George Latimer said he was appalled by conditions when he visited his old school in Mount Vernon. Rather than reduce the quality of top schools, residents of various communities should work together to increase the quality of all schools, he said.

Latimer said it’s not always easy advocating for Mamaroneck and Rye Neck schools  in Albany, as fellow legislators are often skeptical of the districts’ needs. They are particularly critical of Westchester’s multitude of small towns and villages, each with its own government,fire department, police department and school district, he said.  This “duplicative government” is financially wasteful, they say.

The Local Summit, which hosted the program, is an informal community council aimed at making to the community a better place for everyone.  Its next  public discussion, featuring County Executive Robert Astorino, will be held at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, Tuesday, Dec. 20 at the Nautilus Diner in Mamaroneck.

— Submitted by Harold Wolfson


4 thoughts on “Supers: Tax Cap Could Hurt Schools

  1. You could start with a national search to find the person down the street :-) Or you could continue Waiting for Superman.

    You can continue to believe that you get what you pay for; the “bankers” were paid, then you paid them again, about $25B each. And you can continue to believe that you have the top schools despite various studies which you can certainly feel free to dismiss.

    You can continue to blame Albany, Unions, mandates, etc., etc. etc. Or you can believe the opportunity for real education exists and you might start listening to those like Ms. Rhee and StudentsFirst. But then you’d have to do something, other than fooling yourself.

    You could try to prove that higher taxes result in better schools. But you may prefer rhetoric.

    Higher socioeconomic status usually results in better rates of admission to colleges. Other than probably making you feel better, so what?

    Of course, you can dismiss this, and anything else that requires you to think. Although, quality thinking is the real goal and measure of the quality and success of education.

    Happy Thanksgiving Day!

  2. Where do you suggest we find these “super” supers? in California where the tax cap killed the entire public school system throughout the state? from Kindergarden up thru graduate schools? (did someone say pepper spray???)
    wake up – the only thing you get for less is less. We are used to superb schools rivaling any in the nation…see how much your home is worth when prospective buyers start flocking to Connecticut where they actually VALUE public education instead of continuously vilifying the budgets necessary for educating our children. Don’t like your tax bill??? Move down south where public school teachers make less than a Starbucks barista – and that’s WITH a masters degree! Relieve our schools of the absurd mandates PLOPPED on us by Albany with no recourse and you’ll see budgets within the cap every year. Just don’t saddle US with Albany’s politically motivated contract negotiations.

  3. If our “Supers” really believe they cannot maintain and improve the quality of the schools they manage with their already high funding levels then it’s time we find those “Supers” who are already accomplishing it for less.

  4. If our “Supers” really believe they cannot maintain and improve the quality of the schools they manage with their already high funding levels then its time we find those “Supers” who are already accomplishing it for less.

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