(PHOTO: Surrounded by PTO leaders, Milton PTO Co-President Nancy Pasquale presents Assemblyman George Latimer a couple hundred letters asking for the state to exempt unfunded mandates from the proposed state tax cap.)
On Saturday, Rye PTO heads went into action, meeting with Assemblyman George Latimer to request New York State exempt unfunded mandates from the proposed state tax cap. Currently, the State has a property tax cap proposal (the primary source of funding for public schools) but continues to burden school districts with "unfunded mandates" – various requirements for the local districts to pay for certain things.
One of the letters presented to Latimer Saturday:
As a parent residing in the Rye City School District, I am deeply concerned about the possibility of a tax cap, as recently passed by the New York State Senate. Recognizing the difficult economic climate, I do not dispute the need for property tax relief. However, a tax cap of up to 2%, as proposed, will only damage the education that public school districts – including Rye – can offer their students. Frankly, a tax cap without mandate relief or exemptions will gut successful school districts as we know them.
If a tax cap is to be passed, it must be initiated in conjunction with mandate relief. How can we be bound by a tax cap at the same time we are required by law to fund a rapidly-expanding list of state mandates? This year alone, contributions to the state pension system have increased double-digits. School districts are powerless against this mandate – and this is only one example of hundreds that we are forced to comply with. Our school district is facing on-going enrollment increases, and there is no provision for this in the proposed cap. Again, I urge you to consider exemptions for unfunded mandates when discussing the property tax cap. If not, our district will be forced to take away millions of dollars in programs and services that would fundamentally change the structure of a Rye City School District education.
For our district specifically, our high school sports program would be in jeopardy. Class sizes would most certainly increase, and teacher aides would be reduced or eliminated. Essential staff members such as school librarians would be reduced. The music and art programs would be scaled back. For someone whose child is actively involved in the Rye City School District, I know the devastating ramifications these program cuts would have. Our children would be forced into a “cookie-cutter” education, without the program choices, extracurricular and athletic opportunities, and the personal attention that they currently enjoy. We would be making our children less competitive with their public school peers across the nation, essentially robbing them of vital opportunities.
Our children have the right to the best education possible. An education constrained by a tax cap without exemptions for unfunded mandates strips this right away. As the Governor of our State, legislative leaders and an elected official representing our school district, please make sure that our voices are heard and advocate for the children of the Rye City School District.