Monday, May 20, 2013

TWF 209: Freeport School Budget and Trustee Vote, May 21st, 2013!

Greetings, Freeport,

Allow me to post the 'ol Editorial Disclaimer:  Jesse Pohlman is a full-time employee of the Freeport Public Schools.

So, let's start at the start:  Tomorrow is "election day," wherein voters in the Freeport School District vote to adopt the budget, the library budget, and also vote for trustees on the school board.  You just need to stroll down to your local polling place before 9:00 PM tomorrow night.  Here's the breakdown step-by-step:

School Budget

You can find all the information you need, here:
Editorial Note:  Jesse Pohlman's part-time second job as Assistant Coach for the FHS Boys Swim Team is one of the 29.5 positions cut out of this budget.

The tax increase is within New York State's "tax cap" limits, and preserves most of the academic programs required by NYS.  And, yes, our finances have historically been pretty strong - until the great economic crash of 2008, we were cutting taxes and increasing programs.  At a budget meeting I attended this year, I recall the speaker notifying those in attendance that the school Administration has taken their raises for this year, a significant chunk of change, but that the primary driver of our fiscal doldrums is, yet again, New York State.  This isn't untrue, for three reasons - only two of which were pointed out in the meeting.  (Aside:  you may visit "See Through NY" to see what all public employees within the state make.)

First, NYS "restores" state aid on a regular basis, but this is aid that it chooses not to give us in the first place.  According to our representative, this region of the state educates 17% of its children, but receives 12% of the educational funding from the "pot" of tax revenue that the state takes.  Second, the cost of retirement plans have been shifted from the state to the districts; this was done without proper planning, so the districts have little help in paying for that.  This factor alone soaked up most of the actual tax increase the budget calls for.

Third, most important and least addressed, is the fact that Long Island's tax base has been broken by a series of natural disasters.  Any house south of Atlantic Avenue isn't worth what it was before Hurricane Sandy - period.  But property taxes depend on assessed values!  The answer I received to my question about tax assessments was simple:  If assessments are challenged, it was explained, then the tax cost will simply be shifted to others in the form of overall tax increases.  If this sounds familiar, it's because that was Mayor Andrew Hardwick's plan to deal with this assessment problem; and, if you ignore New York State, then yes - that's the only fair way out.

This publication, however, has consistently refused to believe that this is an inevitable fate.  If this were the only answer, we would be best served by both the school and Village governments declaring bankruptcy today.  High taxes have already severely damaged the economic viability of Nassau County as a whole; to continue to raise them, especially on those with no collateral (I.E. Property Values) with which to pay, will certainly cause those who can afford to take losses on their initial investments to leave.  It will create an economic black hole which will make the district's finances entirely unsustainable.  Taxes go up, more people leave, so more taxes are heaped on those who are left.  Folks, this is avoidable.  I've already pointed out what we need to do, and that's get our money back from New York State.  And, no, we cannot rely on just our politicians to do this for us.  And we cannot hold one year's budget accountable for these nightmarish circumstances - we have to act.

So, if you're looking for a, "how do we vote on this budget," then you don't know The Weekly Freeporter.  We don't tell people how to vote, and we don't endorse candidates.  My argument here isn't that you should, or should not vote for it.  You decide that based on the virtues of the situation!  I'm simply here to tell you what the vote is about, and what I've been told by School officials.  And, of course, to encourage you to get out and engage in the voting process - whether or not you vote yes, or no!

Trustee Elections

Running once again is Michael Pomerico, returning incumbent; he's joined by Anthony Miller, who nabbed a spot finishing out a previous trustee's term and hopes to take over his own.  Pamela Bierra-Anderson and Joseph Bonilla are running as a team, and are (surprisingly enough!) backed by the Freeport Teachers Association.  Diane Jackson is also running, seemingly supported by our former Mayor Hardwick.  Finally, I've seen signs for Jorge Heras, who ran in the previous election and is giving it another crack!  I'm also told there's a Mr.  Grossman running, but I haven't heard much of him.  It's a wide field!  More could even be in the woodwork!

Once again, no; there's no endorsements here.  My only suggestion is that you vote - and, perhaps, that you vote for someone who you believe, for whatever reason, will take the fight to Albany to get our money back.

That is the real key to this argument, here:  Not one year's budget, or even three years.  Look five years down the road.  Tell me where we are if we simply break even - never mind experiencing another storm half as vicious as Sandy (which, considering we dealt with Irene the year before, seems to be at least a 50/50 chance).  If we don't get tax equity from NYS, then all the budget elections in the world won't change the fact that our state is taking away our ability to run our schools.

And, as I've mentioned before, if all the state plans to do is use us as a piggy bank for upstate NY, as much as I love upstate NY, why do we stick around?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

TWF 208: Sandy Responder Fundraiser, May 3rd, 2013, @ The Patio!

Hello, Freeport!

This coming Friday evening, on May 3rd, the Friends of Freeport are hosting a Sandy Responder Appreciation Night and Fundraiser!  It will be at The Patio, and it's $35 a person for a plate, with all proceeds going to the Friends of Freeport charity!

Now, I've talked about Friends of Freeport before.  They have this habit of locating Freeporters who need help in rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy and, y'know, helping them.  Like friends would!  They gut houses, they help put them back together again, and they donate a bucket-load of time and effort.  To help raise funds, and to show appreciation to those who answered the call of duty during the "Superstorm" (Which I will always call a Hurricane, because I remember that's what it hit land as), and to help continue their renovation efforts, they're holding an open bar event with a DJ, 50/50 raffle tickets (inquire on their Facebook page!), and door prizes given away through raffles!

So I donated $50 worth of autographed books; all of my in-print works, up to and including my latest 5-star reviewed paperback novel Physics Incarnate!  Here's a picture of me with Debbie from Friends of Freeport, because that's what journalists would want to show off, because readers supposedly enjoy such things!

Yep!  So join us on May 3rd at The Patio; show your support of our first responders, enjoy the open bar (that means free booze), and if all else fails take a crack at winning some free reading material, or other great prizes like restaurant gift cards!  See you there!