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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Editorial
Albany’s big spenders
By George Rand

New York State will be spending $137.9 billion of taxpayers’ money in the 2014-15 fiscal year. If you have a problem comprehending billions of dollars, maybe this will help: The budget that was passed this month amounts to New York state spending $377,808,219 each day over the entire year.

Long Island public schools will get $2.34 billion in state aid under the new budget, an increase from last year of 5.63 percent, or about four times the inflation rate. So why are school taxes going up? Because, as former Gov. George Pataki once said, the more money you send the schools, the more they want. We pay more to educate a student in New York than in any other state.

It’s no surprise that our legislators in Albany are big spenders this year since they will be up for re-election in November. They’ll tell the voters of their generosity in giving schools one of the largest annual increases in state aid. What they won’t tell voters is that New York is among the highest taxed states in the nation and Long Island homeowners rank near the top as having the highest property taxes.

Our lawmakers will not say anything about their own spending habits. Albany legislators spend more than $200 million a year in taxpayers’ money for their office expenditures, with the biggest spender being State Sen. Dean Skelos, whose bill for six months last year came to $477,558.

Is there really a need for each state senator and assembly member to have an office with a full time staff both in Albany and in their home district?

Although our legislators are elected to serve in Albany, they get paid $165 per day for lodging and meals while in the capital whether or not the legislature is in session. That’s another few million dollars of your tax money.

Long Island schoolteachers and administrators are among the highest paid in the nation. In the Great Neck school district, half the teachers are paid more than $107,818 plus 35 percent in benefits for a 10-month school year. The superintendent earns $257.803 plus $97,273 in benefits. If the Great Neck schools can afford to such lavish salaries, why is Albany increasing their state aid to $7.5 million this year?

The superintendent of the Elmont elementary school district is paid $217,912 plus $66,459 in benefits and an additional payment of $5,000. In case you don’t have your calculator handy, that amount comes to nearly $8,000 for each week the Elmont schools are open.

Our elected officials and school administrators will learn one day that they can’t keep up their big spending habits — the goose that lays the golden eggs in New York is ill.

George Rand is a former engineering manager and university instructor. He served with the U.S. Army in the Southwest Pacific area during World War II.

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