Featured Story
04/05/19 6:20am

The debate over the contentious topic of a turf field for Mattituck Cutchogue Union Free School District has concluded: Next month, voters will see a ballot item to approve or reject the $1.6 million project. READ

Featured Story
03/21/19 5:21am

The Southold Union Free School District’s proposed 2019-2020 budget of $30.6 million will remain within the tax cap, administrators said.

The Assistant Superintendent for Business, Chuck Scheid, delivered a presentation to the board Wednesday night which reviewed the district’s sources of revenue and major budget drivers. READ

09/10/14 2:00pm
09/10/2014 2:00 PM

New Suffolk school board president Tony Dill spoke to a packed crowd at the schoolhouse Tuesday, notifying board meeting attendees that the district has received “assurances from at least one lender” that it will be approved for a loan to fill its “significant” budget gap.  (more…)

05/20/14 10:28pm
05/20/2014 10:28 PM
Kirsten Droskoski won a write-in campaign for school board. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Kirsten Droskoski won a write-in campaign for school board. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Voters from all five school districts within Southold Town passed proposed budgets for the 2014-15 school year on Tuesday.

last-minute race  between write-in candidates for one vacant seat in Greenport saw Kirsten Droskoski, with 56 votes, score a narrow win over Jason O’Dell with 51 votes, and Michael Mazzaferro with 45. (more…)

04/25/14 6:00am
04/25/2014 6:00 AM

060207_taxes_vmed_11awidecLegislation signed in December by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that made school tax exemptions for available to certain veterans took effect with little advance notice, making it difficult for school boards tasked with deciding whether their districts would participate in the program to make well-researched and educated decisions.

But while the law certainly has good intentions — offering financial assistance for our veterans — it’s yet another example of state politicians patting themselves on the back while pushing the tough decisions down to the local level — in this case, to elected but volunteer school boards.

Related: School board approves property tax exemptions for veterans

Unlike with STAR exemptions, which provide property tax breaks for homeowners earning less than $500,000 per year, the state doesn’t chip in to make up for the tax revenue lost to the new veterans’ exemptions. That’s up to the other taxpayers in each district.

While most people would agree helping veterans who protected the country during wartime is a worthy overall goal, creating unnecessary tension among neighbors is a side effect that has the potential to damage local communities. School officials have already expressed worry that, should they vote against the exemption, future school budgets could be voted down in protest. Yet at the same time, there are legitimate concerns about whether the local school tax burden is already too much for the average taxpayer. In some Long Island districts that have implemented the new exemption, taxpayers are expected to see their annual school taxes rise by as much as $70.

There are also many other questions to be asked, aside from computing the tax impact on taxpayers who don’t qualify. Riverhead school board vice president Greg Meyer asked a good one earlier this month, when he wondered whether local clergy and volunteer EMTs and firefighters would be the next groups to get school tax breaks.

At best, this recent legislation sends very mixed signals — especially since state lawmakers have spent so many years talking about reducing the property tax burden on New York State residents. And don’t forget their 2012 2 percent tax cap on year-to-year tax levy increases for all schools and local governments.

If New York State lawmakers wanted to offer tax breaks for veterans, there were myriad alternative ways to do so — state income tax credits and lower DMV fees come to mind.

Another logical fix could be to alter the STAR program itself: Reduce the $500,000 eligibility cutoff and shift the savings to veterans.

Admirable or not, if Albany wants to enact statewide tax breaks for some, thereby raising taxes for others, then Albany should do the work itself instead of passing the buck.

Clarification: Volunteer EMTs and firefighters, as well as clergy, are already entitled to school property tax exemptions. However the exemptions are different: 10 percent for volunteers, and $1,500 off of assessed value for clergy members, according to Riverhead Town Assessor Laverne Tennenberg.