Recently, Nassau County superintendents of schools received literature from County Executive Ed Mangano regarding his 2011 "No Property Tax Increase Budget." As part of this proposed budget, Nassau County Legislators voted, strictly along party lines, to shift the financial expense of paying county assessment errors from Nassau County to the local school districts. We certainly agree that the assessment system is broken, however, shifting the responsibility to the school districts will not help fix it.
Mr. Mangano's assertion that this change in practice is not going to cost the school districts any money until 2013-2014 is inaccurate. Superintendents and their boards of education must begin now, wherever possible, to set aside money in their reserves in anticipation of paying out refunds in 2013-2014. For the past four months, we have repeatedly asked the county executive for each district's cost so that we can appropriately plan for this new liability, yet we have received no response. School districts cannot wait until the 2013-2014 school year to first worry about where they are getting the money to refund taxpayers for Nassau County assessment errors.
Mr. Mangano has also invited Nassau County school districts to join him to explore ways in which to save money through cooperative purchasing. What he fails to mention is that this idea was initiated years ago by the previous County Executive (Thomas Suozzi) after consultation with the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents, and that purchasing cooperatives have been established and continue to grow to save money.
Finally, Mangano recently sent an invitation for all Nassau County school districts to join the Long Island Purchasing Council (LIPC) and states that several districts have indicated that they would like to join this group. This statement is false. These school districts have not joined this group and, in fact, most of our school districts have been advised by their own attorneys, because of questions of legality, that participation in the LIPC will subject the districts to significant restrictions that would not be beneficial.
The Nassau County superintendents and boards of education will continue to look for cost saving measures, while continuing to provide our children with the education they need and deserve. We look forward to engaging in a frank and honest dialogue to achieve our goal of continuing to provide our children with a quality education, while maintaining a fiscally responsible budget.
(Editor's Note: Dr. Ranier W. Melucci is superintendent of schools in the Merrick School District and president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents.)