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Saturday, December 20, 2014
Editorial
Support our schools — get involved in their budgeting

Semifinalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search were announced recently, and, as usual, Long Island came up big in the contest. Of the 300 semifinalists, 53 –– including eight from Nassau County’s South Shore –– were Long Islanders.

Put another way, one-sixth of the semifinalists in this national competition came from a 118-mile-long island off the mainland. What are the odds of that?

Apparently, they’re very good when you have excellent schools. Even without magnet schools dedicated to research, like the Bronx School of Science in New York City, Long Island produces many of the best student scientists in the country. That is but one testament to the quality of our schools, which are known across the country for their rigorous standards. When our kids apply to the nation’s top universities, they don’t have to convince admissions officers that they come from superior academic programs. It’s understood.

Are there troubled districts? Yes, there always are, but they are not the norm. It’s no wonder that Long Islanders overwhelmingly pass their school budgets each year, even in the toughest economic times.

But our school districts will face unprecedented financial challenges in the years ahead, which, school officials say, will threaten programs like Intel science research.

In June 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed the most stringent property-tax cap ever proposed in New York. Districts now cannot increase their property-tax levies –– the amount they must collect in taxes to meet expenses –– by more than 2 percent per year. If district officials feel that they must exceed the cap, a budget proposal must pass by a super-majority of at least 60 percent of district voters.

We understand the thinking behind the cap –– Long Islanders pay among the highest property taxes in the nation. They need relief. The cap, though, is a blunt instrument that gives districts little leeway when they craft their annual budgets.

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