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School Budget Committee Tells District Cuts to Benefits Needed

Community members give Board of Education feedback on 2012-13 spending plan.


The Long Beach Board of Education devoted a work session on capital projects to the proposed 2012-13 budget, which turned into a three-hour meeting when the Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee giving its report on the $122.1 million spending plan.

Lilly Newman, a member of the advisory committee of volunteers and school officials who study the new budget, proposed a reassessment of benefits such as workers compensation and medical and dental, as well as several other areas the committee believes the school district has over compensated their employees. 

“It’s the big gorilla in the room,” Newman said. “No one wants to talk about it, and it’s the second largest expense category that we have.”

According to Newman, the Long Beach School Board allocated $30 million to benefits in the proposed budget, including a $4 million increase in health insurance over two years, half a million more than the projected increase for the total budget ($3.5 million).

The committee compared health insurance costs with similarly sized neighboring school districts and discovered that Rockville Centre is spending $4.9 million less than Long Beach, while Oceanside is spending $3.3 million less.

“Long Beach is doing something wrong,” Newman said. “Health insurance makes up almost half of all the other fringe benefits combined.” 

She added that Long Beach also pays roughly $600,000 more than Rockville Centre and close to $300,000 more than Oceanside in workers compensation benefits.

“Today, when every dollar counts, these are vast differences we really have to think about,” Newman said. “We don’t want to see our employers lose their jobs and we don’t want to see our students lose programs.”

The board thanked the committee for their report, although they didn’t directly comment on its specifics after its presentation.

Meanwhile, Long Beach teachers, parents and community members had time to research the district’s proposal after it was first unveiled to a packed auditorium at the Long Beach Library on March 13, and many voiced their concerns with the some of the suggested cuts.

Several people asked the board to reconsider proposed cuts in various departments, including music, guidance and special education, as well as a number of other areas, including teachers’ assistants.

"With our Ivy [League] push in high school, and our increased need to succeed in four-year colleges, is it wise to cut back on this department,” one commenter asked about a proposal to make cuts in the guidance department.  

Dr. Dennis Ryan agreed with those who were most concerned about reductions in guidance, and he asked the board to look into making cuts to clubs in order to save reductions to first grade teaching assistant positions.

“We’re not going to put music against athletics, we’re not going to put elementary against middle [school], and middle against high school because we are one unit,” Ryan said.

While Ryan and other board members agreed that they were concerned with some of Superintendent David Weiss’s proposed cuts, he commended the first year superintendent for the budget package.

“It’s a sort of democratic budget,” Ryan said to Weiss. “You've picked on every area of the district, and you haven't shown any discrimination and I know that’s a difficult thing to do.” 

 

Beacher March 30, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Why didn't Patch report the near riot over the huge proposed tax increase? It's going to kill what's left of Long Beach real estate.
inplainsight March 30, 2012 at 12:24 PM
save millions on healthcare alone, meaning less cuts, lower taxes - is anyone doing any thinking on the board. a bond we said would cost x amount a year now is being presented as costing more this year, something fishy. Atlantic Beach would love to join the district- millions of tax dollars, probably fit the students into current curriculum, slight transportation increase? We need some bold, innovative thinking on the board, enough of the stale, make sure our friends are protected and we have a highly paid administration thought. Pass some of the administrative duties to the lesser administartors and their staffs.
Ex-LB Dem March 30, 2012 at 02:20 PM
How would you like to get a $12,500 check every june? Check out this deal for teachers in Long Beach Schools- If a teacher elects to opt out of the districts health insurance (because they their spouse covers the teacher under another policy), that teacher who elects not to take the insurance gets a check in June for 50% of the total premium that the district would have paid if the teacher had elected to take the insurance! (p.43, subsection b, last sentence). A March 2012, CNN/Money story reported that the average family health insurance policy in the US is $25,000.00! NY is surely higher than the average, but let's assume we are average. That means that a teacher in Long Beach gets a check in June for $12,500, every June the elect not to take the insurance! That is a sin! Most people get $1500-$2000 to opt out, but in Long Beach we give them $12,500!! That is a complete rip off of the taxpayer! http://qvs.visiblegovernment.us/seethroughNY.net/contracts/school-contracts/210800050000%20Long%20Beach%20T.pdf
chris d March 30, 2012 at 05:14 PM
jason I know a few teachers its about 1500.00 in june and 1500.00 in dec much less than it would cost the city to pay for that teachers benifits also its not only teacher its most city of LB jobs that have this option it does save money because if you didnt offer people the cash they would just take benifits that they dont need
Castles Made of Sand March 30, 2012 at 05:57 PM
The problem is threefold. First off, the school board has an alliance to the teachers and not the taxpayers. If they were not in the pocket of the teachers, they would not get elected. Everyone who has a job in the school system, their friends and family who they make go out and vote, along with a smattering of other people, actually vote. The percentage of voting residents is abysmal. Secondly, while they may think they have education as a paramount concern, they are for the most part largely unqualified in that area. It’s a thankless job made up of well intentioned people from the community who have no expertise ( I repeat, expertise) in finance, or education. I mean real progressive ideas on education. Gallagher’s a long-ago retired teacher, Lester’s an attorney of some sort, Tagney’s a high school drop-out, etc., but I digress. We spend about $20,000 per pupil per year. I believe we are number 25 of 120 school districts on Long Island. What do we have to show for it? A school board that wants their legacy to be TWO football stadiums. They are failing our children, burdening the taxpayers, and patting themselves on the back. Get out and VOTE “NO” on May 15th to this latest travesty of a school budget
Misty March 30, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Any teacher that told you that is lying. They get about $3-4,000 per year if they don't use the district's insurance. Some teachers elect to have their pay lower throughout the school year and get the remainder as their last check in June to get them through the summer. The interesting thing, however, is that there are district employees who are married to other district employees and one gets the healthcare taken from their check and the other gets the reimbursement.
Shari March 31, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Hey CASTLES.....if you vote no, the bond still needs to get paid. You save nothing and the cuts will be immense. What happens to your property value then? The budget proposal is all cuts & no increase except to pay the bond which we have to do. Get the facts straight before you encourage people to vote no.
Castles Made of Sand March 31, 2012 at 03:14 AM
What "facts" are you referring to? The "fact" that the school board is more concerned with not "immense(ly) cutting out the stadium seating, a new AstroTurf field, lights, and sound system as their legacy, as opposed to education? "Immense" cuts in the school system is what we need. Did I get the fact wrong that Long Beach is the 25th highest ranking district in per pupil spending out of some 120 districts on Long Island? What are we, 24th?, 26th?. Is that what I didn't get straight? It's $20,000 dollars per student per year!!! I'll wager a bet that the "immense" cuts you talk about will have NO effect on educational outcomes. And Shari, the beach is what makes people buy a home in Long Beach, not the school district. Those with money and a real interest in education send their kids to private school. Taxes increase when new bonds or levies are approved by voters. The more they spend, the more you're taxed. As taxes go up, real estate value goes down. Enlighten me, no, all of us, on the deleterious effects of VOTING "NO" on May 15th.
EnsPulver March 31, 2012 at 04:30 AM
The problem is the items you refer to, like a stadium are part of the education product. I am a product of the LB School system but now live out of state. Physical plant is just as important as what goes on in the buildings. The newest building in the district is the HS which was built int he late 60's early 70's. Everything else dates back to the 40's-60's. The quality of your facilities does affect the quality of education. If I were looking to move I w ould not look in LB. I don't think it would be a good thing for my kids to go to school in the same ancient building I went to school in.
Eddie March 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Misty and Chris are right. The payout is nowhere near what Jason states, and opting for the payout saves the taxpayers half of the costs.
Eddie March 31, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Castles is right on the money here. A message has to be sent that these continued poor management decisions will be met with intolerance. The fellow above who doesn't live here and thinks anything old is bad is probably as unwelcome in his new community as he would be by me. Too many New Yorkers share the mantra that "old must be replaced" and that "more money must be spent" to ensure a quality product. It's part of the self-absorbed ignorance that is running Long Island into bankruptcy. We have spent far too much money replacing perfectly good infrastructure. New "stadiums," new lunchrooms -- I can go on and on. If you'd like to continue living in Long Beach, or if you have an investment here, now may be your last chance to send a message to this board. Vote down this budget. Get up from the couch and vote NO to a $500 tax increase. Vote NO to what will be a $50 rent increase.
Castles Made of Sand March 31, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Alas, you're right, poor Enspulver. Look at the dimwits in the halls of those dreadfully old buildings of Oxford, Cambridge, and Salamanca. Do us a favor. Stay where you are. VOTE "NO" on May 15th.
EnsPulver March 31, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Actully no. In the district I now live in I served on a parent committee that looked at all our facilities and decided we needed a new middle and elementary school. We had some flat earth types against it, but the community voted for the bonds to build these two new buildings and to do some rehab on every other building in the district along with technology upgrades. The two new building a LEED certified, use geothermal heat and cooling, and LED lighting. The new middle school has a solar array on the roof and we can in the summer months sell excess electricity back to the power company. As of now the two building are 60% less to operate than the buildings they replaced-which were way newer than anything in LB. Did I mention the 12,000 seat football stadium. While we are wasting all this money our district is one of the top performers in the state. I don't live in LB anymore and with the amount of very bitter small minded people posting like Mr. Castles and his partner Eddie I can't imagine why anyone would want to move in.
Eddie April 01, 2012 at 01:27 AM
True to the typical tax and spend liberal, you've resorted to name-calling. I'm sure your kids will receive great educations in your rural Arkansas zero-carbon-footprint edifices. But on a higher note, it's nice to see practical design somewhere. While your native neighbors may express some disdain for the New Yorker who has moved into town and lobbied for big spending and new buildings, you saw at least they were designed with some efficiency and long term savings in mind. We're not so lucky here. Our artificial turf fields will hold a thousand tons of pulverized tire waste and the stadium lighting use $3600 of power per night game.
LB TAXPAYA April 01, 2012 at 03:54 PM
LIsten everybody, these school board members do not care what the committee reccomends! They just want to spend more money! In tough economic times they HAD TO build a second synthetic field? All they want to do is spend, spend, spend! WE have to put a stop to this! QUICK!
Eddie April 01, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Their school budget vote campaign is aimed at the emotional housewife, the non-propery owning renter, and the welfare client who wants more for nothing. With only 10% of Long Beach residents paying school taxes, the word has to go out that a "yes" vote is a vote for a $ 50 rent increase, or a vote for losing your Section 8 dole. Also the ignorant housewife -- "They'll take the basketballs from the kids" -- hysteria -- has got to be countered. The spending increases have to stop or this will just become another welfare community like Mastic, Elmont and Roosevelt as the taxpayers are forced to flee.
Citihabitats Management April 01, 2012 at 04:21 PM
My tenants will all be getting flyers telling them "Vote YES on the School Budget and get a $50 Rent Hike". Then we'll offer them a ride to the polls. A number of landlords are on board with this. Call me, Eddie.
ed April 04, 2012 at 09:16 PM
I am self employed and have to work 6-7 days a week to cover all of my bills (My own Health Insurance, Taxes, etc etc) I feel like I am working to pay my health insurance and working to pay the health insurance of the school/county/state workers who work less then I do and have far more benefits than I do. I see teachers and police officers retireing on $90,000 a year + Pensions! I would need TWO MILLION DOLLARS at 4 1/2 % to retire on $90,000, plus I would still have to pay for health insurance. Enough is Enough, Don't rasie taxes, let them pay for there own health insurance like the rest of us.
wb April 04, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Who is watching the school districts construction project [96 million ] ?Why were three new, undersized, steam boilers installed in the middle school, when less than ten percent of the complex uses steam? Hot water boilers could have saved hundreds of thousands and would have been more efficient. Shame, Shame, Shame
Jose Gomez April 04, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Maybe, Ed, you made a wrong choice going into your own business. Since you cannot afford the things that school/county/state workers enjoy, you should return to school and consider getting one of those jobs. It would probably be harder work, but you wouldn't be whining here. That would be more realistic and grown up than trying to take away what they have because you are envious.
LI Resistance April 05, 2012 at 12:48 AM
I will vote the budget down .Tell your neighbors please .
concerned April 06, 2012 at 12:34 AM
thats a good question. who is responsible for the construction and financial oversight
richard April 06, 2012 at 02:56 PM
If they are wasting money on the construction project, where else are they wasting our tax dollars? Certainly, this financial waste should go towards educational programs.
Lido resident May 14, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Voting no on the budget is short sighted and more importantly does not accomplish anything except destroy property value. The austerity budget is about the same as the regular budget. All it does is further ruin the reputation of the long beach schools. The vast majority of the real costs in the system (teacher salaries and benefits) are determined not by the annual budget but by the contracts teacher sign with the district. As for the capital expenditures, the are also outside of the budget -- they were voted on an approved by the residents of the district (myself included). Those expenditures are required to be made. However, if you want to make any real difference in spending you need to change the board and put people in place that will make real fiscal changes -- and these can only really be made in contracts with the teachers. This is exactly what happened in lawrence where they have managed to meaningfully cut spending. Of course the downside is they have destroyed the district and killed property values and have done thier best to ensure they are not responsible for educating the next generation (but screw them no one educated us). But hey they did save $500 a year (pre-tax).
Eddie May 14, 2012 at 08:30 PM
LIDO, what's your house worth now? About $325,000? That's half of what it was worth before Tangney and Guma raised school spending 45%. What destroys property values are $13,000 taxes rising $1,500 per year. Voting NO will reduce your tax increase. Home values in Lawrence have increased 15% since they reeled in school spending and now exceed the values in Long Beach. They voted NO, NO and NO in Lawrence and their school grades and their home values have excelled past ours. Oh yea, and their taxes have gone down. A NO vote means lower taxes. And vote Tangney and Guma to the curb too...
Neutron May 14, 2012 at 10:03 PM
What you are essentially proposing is just throw in the towel without a fight. A message need to be sent to the politicians that the residents are fed up and are not willing to take it anymore. Voting out the incumbants and voting down the budget sends a clear message. Maybe Long Beach needs some Charter Schools. They tend to perform as well or better than traditional public schools for lower costs.

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