A post published on May 4 on SuffolkOutrage.com titled "Three Village Schools Exposed" is full of falsehoods about the district's proposed budget, a school official said Monday.
Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, spelled out multiple errors, most notably the Web page's claim that Three Village's proposed budget would raise the tax levy by "more than twice the average increase for all schools on Long Island."
Three Village's proposed tax levy increase is 4.48 percent, while the average for Long Island is 2.61 percent and in Suffolk 2.84 percent, Carlson said. Because of Three Village's decreased state aid revenue along with other factors, 2.99 percent was the actual limit on the tax levy increase that Three Village could propose and still need only a simple majority of votes to pass. Each individual school district had a different tax cap due to a funding formula, with only a handful of them at exactly 2 percent.
The Web page also claims the percentage of the school budget related to the salaries of teachers and administrators is 80 percent. Carlson explained that the largest part of the budget is for salaries not just for teachers and administrators: it's all district staff, including custodians, security guards, clerks, monitors, and more, and it represents about 75 percent of the school's budget.
The salary list is an outdated one that included payouts to many retiring teachers for their unused sick time or early retirement incentive, and does not necessarily represent their regular salaries, Carlson said.
"They really manipulated a lot of facts and left out important pieces of them. ... There are blatant misstatements in this thing," he said.
It's only a concern for the district if people take the Web page at face value, he said.
"I’m hoping they see things in there that they know are not true," Carlson said, "and then they can at least pause to think, ‘Before I believe everything I read, I’d rather verify it for myself.’"
Among the Web page's points, there are some that are accurate: residents do pay school taxes regardless of whether they have children in the district. Teachers do work about 180 days per year contractually, although there are many district employees including administrators who work all 12 months. Also true: Teachers generally have raises built into their contracts regardless of their performance.
What many people don't realize, Carlson said, is that the most budget savings are seen when staff members are laid off. In the proposed 2012-2013 school budget, more than 85 full-time equivalent positions will be cut as part of about $6.5 million in reductions the district already made. However, Carlson said, when you cut the staff members that usually means the program or service they provided gets cut, too.
He reiterated the hope that the residents will consider the facts and vote accordingly, regardless of whether people choose to support the budget.
"I don’t think it would do anybody any good to put out misstatements, though. It doesn’t help anybody," he said.
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