The average homeowner in Nassau County typically spends 60 to 65 percent of his or her local taxes on schools. Don’t you want to know how your money is being spent? Don’t you deserve a say in how it is being spent?
Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to participate. Your school district holds a Board of Education meeting every month — usually more often at this time of year, when it is preparing its budget for next year — and that’s a great chance to learn about the issues. Even better, it’s a chance to speak your mind.
The school board trustees you elect are the officials you can and should hold accountable for the successes and failures of the schools. Their role is to ensure that the schools truly belong to the community, and trustees who don’t take that to heart quickly find themselves back in the audience. A trustee should have two goals: to do what is best for the children of the district and to respect the taxpayers. And those goals should converge each year in time for the May budget vote.
Right now, your school board members are focused on assembling a spending plan that satisfies the community so voters will pass it on May 20. That’s why it is so important to get involved in the budgeting process by speaking up at meetings when given the opportunity. What programs do you want for your children, and how much are you willing to pay in taxes? You need to make the answers to those questions clear to the trustees.
While the back-and-forth on spending is nearing its final stages, there is still time to take part in it. Call your school district’s business office and ask for a copy of the proposed budget. Attend the meetings and ask questions. The more familiar you are with terms like tax levy and fund balance, the better off you and your children will be.
Better yet, consider running for a seat on your Board of Education. School board elections may be the lower-profile item on the May ballot, but they are every bit as important as the budget. Trustees make one crucial decision after another, on spending, on school policy, on who teaches and supervises your children.