I am writing to express my concern and opposition to the Westbury School District’s $173 million bond proposal, which is planned for a public referendum in November.
In my view, this proposal will have a devastating long-term effect and cost on our community, and add a tremendous additional financial burden on our taxpayers. It is almost unfathomable that when so many families and seniors on fixed incomes are struggling, that the district would even think about incurring such a large amount of additional debt under any circumstances. While I understand that New York State has a program that will subsidize a portion of this bond and associated payments, a full $60 million of the bond will still fall onto our local taxpayers to pay back with interest. That is just too much, and our taxpayers can not afford it.
The cost to the average village taxpayer living in the Westbury school district will be a school property tax increase of approximately $500 or more, per year per household for 30 years; that does not account for any additional tax increases by the district going forward. The district already has the second highest school tax rate in Nassau County. The impact to most village residents in the district will be far greater than that on district residents in the unincorporated areas, including New Cassel. This is due to the higher property values that we have in the village. As a result, even though only about 15 percent of district students live in the village (more than 85 percent of the students come from outside the village), village taxpayers in the district will be responsible for approximately 52 percent of the pay-back on this debt. That is patently unfair.
I do not doubt that the district is struggling with the increased enrollment it has experienced over the past decade. In fact, last year I was the first local official (even before the district itself) to object to the placement by the federal government of approximately 200 unaccompanied minors in the district with no corresponding federal aid. I have also made illegal housing enforcement one of the village’s top priorities, and tried to urge the Town of North Hempstead to do likewise in their jurisdiction. But, despite the challenges, it is incumbent on the district to come up with the least costly solutions available.
I urge every resident attend one or more of the information sessions that the district will be arranging, to find out all that he or she can about this plan. Residents must inquire of the school board and administration as to what alternatives are available and have been considered. And, it is imperative that residents require the district to find and undertake the least costly and most cost-effective and feasible means to address the issues that the district confronts. Even though a serious problem exists, it is, in my view, irresponsible and simply untenable to propose this kind of additional tax burden on our residents, especially the disproportionate burden that would be placed on village residents living in the district.
I have expressed all of these concerns to the district administration and many of the members of the Westbury Board of Education. Yet, they are proceeding to move forward with these plans. I once again call on the school board and administration to postpone the planned referendum and seek more economically feasible solutions. Barring that, as village mayor, I have no choice but to urge all village residents living in the district (and residents of the unincorporated areas as well) to oppose this unwise and costly plan.
—Peter Cavallaro, Mayor of the Village of Westbury