NORTH SHORE SUPERINTENDENT'S ADVISORY COUNCIL LAUNCHES
October 17 -- On Tuesday evening, scores of residents, teachers, administrators and school board members gathered at North Shore High School for the launching of the Superintendent's Community Advisory Council. Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick announced at the September 12th Board of Education meeting that such a group was being formed, and soon thereafter sent out an e-mail blast soliciting volunteers. More than 80 people answered the call.
Tuesday evening's meeting began in the high school auditorium, where Dr. Melnick issued his charge to the council, and gave a PowerPoint presentation providing an overview of the many issues and challenges currently facing the district. In addition he provided the group with an assortment of documents relating to budget planning and the infrastructure bond proposal.
The Council, he said, "is charged with reviewing pertinent issues and documentation, and drafting recommendations for the Superintendent for consideration in planning for the future of our schools."
The six biggest challenges currently facing the school district, he explained, are the 2% tax levy limit; the decommissioning of a portion of the LIPA plant in Glenwood Landing and its impact on district taxpayers; climbing property taxes; aging infrastructure; and increased demands of a 21st century education.
Dr. Melnick suggested that the group consider two basic questions in developing its recommendations. First, how can the district reduce expenses, keeping in mind the restrictions imposed by state mandated costs? And second, how can the district increase its revenue stream on a consistent basis? Dr. Melnick then explained what the District has done in answering these questions over the last few years. With regard to reducing expenses, he spoke about the savings brought about by the bus facility on Shore Road, the most recent collective bargaining agreements, and the elimination of administrative, teaching, secretarial, and custodial positions. In addition, he said, class sizes have risen significantly from a time not too long ago when the district boasted the smallest class sizes in Nassau County. Today, he said, Glen Head Elementary School's two Kindergarten classes have 24 and 25 students respectively, and 58 classes in the high school are at 27 or 28. He pointed to the services provided to other districts by the transportation maintenance depot and the work of the Viking Foundation as efforts to increase revenue.
Over the course of his presentation, the Superintendent briefly discussed the decommissioning of the LIPA plant in Glenwood Landing and its possible financial impact on residents. The closing would not affect the tax levy limit for the district, but rather cause a shift of 10 to 12 million dollars from the utility's tax burden to residential and commercial taxpayers, he explained. If that reduction in the utility's taxes occurred in a single year, it would result in a tax increase of about 19% for district residents.
Dr. Melnick said that in addition to securing $2.5 million dollars from the state legislature to mitigate the impact of decommissioning on property taxes, the district has hired legal counsel to work with local legislators and the county assessor's office to address the issue, and he expressed hope that the tax increase would not be more than 1 to 5% per year. He continued that currently the tax rate in North Shore is 44th lowest out of 56 school districts in Nassau County and that with the tax shift from the power plant, North Shore's rate would climb to around 22nd or 23rd. He then said that the district has to decide what it wants - "business as usual and bite the bullet" on the tax shift, make some changes and have a "somewhat different" district, or make deep cuts resulting in a school system that is "dramatically" different.
After the 40 minute presentation, the group broke into smaller committees - each with about 15 people, and chaired by a central administrator or school board trustee, to begin exploring some of the issues the Superintendent had raised.
The group will meet five more times through April.