Questions and Answers


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Perhaps best answered at your next meeting: you said tonight that you are only allowed to excess 7 teacher positions in a given year. If any schools are closed, how many teachers are allowed to be excessed in that scenario? Is it still 7, and if so, what happens to the employees that are not excessed? Posted on 2010-01-08 15:46:08


The teacher s contract allows for 10 teachers to be excessed each time a building is closed. I will address this on January 21st.


You discussed at the Board Meeting tonight possible increases of our tax levy between 2.5% to approximately 5.5%. I think it would help the community if each household knew dollar for dollar how this increase will affect them. For example, a 5% increase on my home will be different for my neighbor and so on. My suggestion is to add a user friendly financial calculator on your blog where each household can enter (plug in) their own assessment value in order to determine in real dollars exactly how much their taxes will increase. You and I may find out that although no one welcomes an increase in taxes, it is better than the alternatives you will be speaking about on the 21st. I have been a Hampton Street parent for over 10 years now and believe my children have excelled and benefitted from their neighborhood school. Thanks. Posted on 2010-01-08 15:45:41


I have been reluctant to give estimates because we have no control over how the calculations work. It is based on the assessment of your home as well other variables factor by the town of North Hempstead. In the past when estimates were given, many angry parents took issue with the tax bill. But I will ask Jack Waters to put something together for the website.


Will the superintendent and central office personnel under contract be willing to freeze your contractual salaries for a year and set an example to the unions of what should be done in order to avoid closing schools and cutting programs? Posted on 2010-01-12 17:02:35


If I knew by "setting an example" everyone would follow suit, yes I would


Can you please explain the Taylor Laws and how they affect contract negotiation? Posted on 2010-01-12 17:09:01


The Taylor law was adopted in 1967 and basically allowed public employees the right to organize for collective bargaining purposes. It also created the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to assist in the resolution of disputes. It also placed a ban on strikes and imposed a penalty for employees that did strike. In 1974 the Triborough amendment held "that following the expiration of a contract, public employers were prohibited from unilaterally altering terms and conditions of employment while negotiating a successor agreement following the expiration of a contract" Basically- a contract never expires and the language in the contract remains unless it is negotiated out. I will attach a very good booklet on the Taylor law on the main page of the blog.


You wrote on your About sction" Thursday January 21, I will outline a scenario that will reduce our budget by the same amount by closing two schools. It is critical that you are aware of the dilemma we face and to give your input on possible solutions." Which two schools will be highlighted in this scenerio? Posted on 2010-01-13 14:26:35


In the scenario the schools are interchangeable. The point of the presentation is to show reductions in the budget two ways. First in the current configuration and the second by closing schools. It is important that we frame the current financial problem and show possible solutions before discussing what we should do. All of the solutions have pros and cons.


I read in todays Newsday that NYS will be dispersing 750 million to NY schools and that as per Tom DiNapoli, the money will be deposited by tonight. Do you have a figure of how much Mineola will be receiving? Posted on 2010-01-15 11:22:20


You are referring to the money the Governor withheld at the beginning of the year. For Mineola it represents about 27,000 in excess cost and approximately 1.1 million in STAR. Please note that this is not NEW money, rather it is money we expected from the State and we are now receiving it.


When you present the closing schools scenario, will you address the construction costs necessary for the two remaining schools to be able to accommodate large increases in student numbers? Posted on 2010-01-19 08:43:54


That will be part of the presentation


This is my first year at Cross Street. We love it and all the neighborhood families that attend are wonderful! We would be sorely disappointed if the school closed. I was wondering if you had considered redrawing the neighborhood lines to even out the children in each school? Posted on 2010-01-22 09:36:56


I will be addressing 'rezoning' during Thursday's presentation


Will there be a representative from the teachers union at the BOE meeting on Thursday Jan 21st ? Posted on 2010-01-22 09:36:56


Last meeting there were several teachers present. I do not know if the president of the union will attend.


How will the recent announcement of the closing of Corpus Christi elementary school affect the enrollment in our public schools, and what impact will this have on class size if one or two Mineola schools are closed? Posted on 2010-01-22 09:36:56


It should not be an issue. If all of the Mineola School residents reentered the district it would total 87 students. Those 87 are spread across 10 grades. As of right now there is only potential "bad number" in Jackson's second grade. By "bad number" I mean enough kids to force opening an additional section thereby increasing staff.


Are decisions on cutting teachers and principals based solely on seniority and tenure? Does performance play a role? With an increase in the number of students "under one roof" would there be assistant principals? Posted on 2010-01-22 09:36:56


Educational law and contractual language require the least senior person in each tenure area to be excessed first. Tenure doesn't factor into the excess decision. Performance doesn't factor in. Haven't gotten to the staffing of buildings yet. But if an assistant principal is needed I would recommend that. I don't foresee one for a building of 400, possibly one for the 600 student building.


The Devil is in the Details. Exactly how are you going to raise money for a capital improvement fund to pay for the construction of additional classrooms at Meadow and Jackson without raising everyone’s taxes? You said your architect told you the whole project would cost close to $8 Million. Where is that money going to come from? Posted on 2010-01-22 12:36:14


First I would like to reiterate that there has been no decision on what schools would be closed nor what schools would have additions on them. To pay for the project the community must first vote to establish a capital reserve. We currently have approximately 1.9 million dollars in this budget that was earmarked to further pay down the 2006 bond. I am suggesting using that money to begin funding the reserve. In next years budget we would build an additional 1 million dollars that would be added to the capital reserve, in addition any surplus from the 2010-2011 budget would be transferred to the reserve. The same process would occur for the 2011-12 school year. After 3 years we should have enough monies to begin the project. If not we may need to dip into the undesignated fund balance and try and re-coop those monies from revenue generated from renting the buildings. I have a chart in my presentation that depicts this scenario.


The word equity kept popping up yesterday as a reason for clustering the schools, should our taxes also be more equitable if this happens. We pay over 12,000 a year for Meadow now if more kids are in our school should there be a descrease in my taxes and an increase in Mineola? 5% increase sounds like a scary number but viewing the other option it is far scarier to have our neighborhood schools closed. Posted on 2010-01-22 13:24:48


I believe this is more of a statement than a question.


What specific things will be considered when deciding which 2 of the 5 schools (This # includes Willis)will be closed? for example....Parking for staff and families, ease of dropoff/pickup, cafeteria/kitchen space, suitable playground space for the children, ability to add on to building if needed in the future etc.? That is if the board were to vote to close 2 schools. Thanks! Posted on 2010-01-22 15:17:28


YES- all of those things would have to be analyzed. In addition some of the items brought up last night- like length of bus ride and the ability to earn rental income. The idea is to create exceptional spaces for kids to learn. If we build it correctly now, even with a spike in enrollment the buildings should handle it. All of this will take planning and input.


If you are not going to have enough money to begin construction for 3 years how are you going to close schools and fire teachers in the meantime? Posted on 2010-01-25 09:31:20


We will build the reserve of three budget cycles. So this year 2009-10 we will use 1.9 million, in the 2010-11 budget we build additional monies and in July of 2011, when the 2011-12 budget goes into effect, we will have three years worth of monies available. This is only possible because of the surplus we built in this budget to help pay down the 2006 bond.


According to your reply, you have approx. 1.9 million dollars available to you this year that you can transfer into a new capital reserve fund, and an additional 1 million dollars available to you next year, and a possible surplus in the budget, as well as another 3.17 million dollars in the unrestricted fund that you are now willing to dip into. WHY ARE YOU NOT WILLING TO USE some of these available funds to reduce the threatened tax levy increase? Posted on 2010-01-25 09:35:53


I have always said the reserve monies are an option to decrease the tax levy. What happens when you run out of that money? If you have no way of replenishing that account then ultimately you will have no savings and will be faced with a huge tax levy when that revenue source doesn’t exist. I have mentioned that if you borrow that money there should be a way to replenish it. i.e. rent


Will the Board be deciding @ the next meeting (2/4) which way they plan to proceed? Posted on 2010-01-25 09:37:53


The board will be discussing the problem I have outlined over the last few months and discuss possible solutions. I do not anticipate a final decision on the 4th


If the district votes to establish a capital reserve fund and within the next 3 yrs something were to happen (miraculous fix to the economy, burgeoning enrollment)that the addition to existing buildings would not have to occur or that a building would need to remain open, does that money then become available to the district for programs/budget or does it remain restricted to capital funds? Also, in the hope that closing schools would not impact programs: if schools are closed, what about the fields attached to those schools that are used by sports/marching band and rented out to the community. If the closed schools are rented out, do the fields remain ours, can they still be used, and can they still be rented to little leagues, etc? Posted on 2010-01-29 13:41:19


A capital reserve can only be used for a specific capital purpose. If we decided to move in this direction there would be a referendum on the ballot in May that asks the public to establish the reserve. It has to state what the money is for and how much we expect to put into it. If the wording is something like "maintain, repair or build an extension on," it would definitely be used in the future. As for school property- we OWN all of our property and we decide how it will be used and who may use it.


You said, "This is only possible because of the surplus we built in this budget." With all due respect, I am concerned about this 1.9 Million dollar surplus that you built into the budget. Would our taxes be lower if you had not built this surplus into the budget? And if it was supposed to be used to pay down the 2006 bond, how can you redirect it into another fund? Posted on 2010-01-29 13:41:19


The process of creating a budget that represents good fiscal responsibility isn't easy. Currently we spend between 98-99 % of our budget. The monies not spent create a surplus. The question then becomes what should you do with the surplus? As noted by our auditors, are reserves are woefully weak, aside from the 4% undesignated fund balance all of our other reserve represent less than .6 of the budget. Our goal over the last few years has been to try and reduce the budget and reduce our taxes (which we have done) and try and bolster some of our reserves. The decision was made to use our surplus to pay down the Bond Anticipation Note (BAN). We have reduced the 2006 10 million dollar bond to 3.2 million and the end of this year it will be 2.5 million. This planning has saved the district well over 4 million dollars of interest. As for "redirecting" funds, we are not. The general fund is still paying the debt; the difference is the excess monies used to pay down the BAN will now be used for other purposes.


Can you outline again how the children will be transitioned from year to year if and when the school closings begin. What happens to the Kindergarten children at the end of 2011? and then in 2012? What happens to all the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at the end of 2012? Will children be attedning a school while construction is occurring? Thanks Posted on 2010-01-28 11:07:29


I cannot provide answer to these questions without first knowing what schools would be closed. Please remember that this is all in a discussion stage right now.


In the power point for the 3-1 presentation, you say "Can't close a neighborhood school and leave another one lessons from Cross." Could you give me a place to learn what the lessons from Cross are? Posted on 2010-01-29 16:03:44


The video of the presentation is now online so you can see what I said. But basically Cross Street was closed becuase of low enrollemnt for many years. It was re-open without an increase in students b/c the community wanted their neighborhood school back.


Can you please review the budget vote process? Specifically; Could two budget votes be prepared, the first being at a high percentage increase and a second at a lower? I understand the fear that failing to approve a budget would result in an unacceptable contingency budget. But I would rather not dismiss the community's ability to rally to help our schools because of a procedural issue. Posted on 2010-02-01 09:33:40


Only one budget may be voted on. If I understand your question, we could go out with a higher percent in May and if it fails reduce the percentage in June. But if that one fails the ability to have some options in 2011-12 are all but gone.


Any thought to approching Corpus Christi to rent their parking lot? Posted on 2010-02-09 11:13:21


I have not approached them


How can the district (or any LI district) afford these teacher salaries? They are way out of control. I'm in the private sector and had to take a 10% pay cut and have no pension waiting for me. I have a 401K instead. Why can't we freeze school salaries for 10 years? This is absolutely ridiculous on top of all the vacation time off they get. Posted on 2010-02-09 11:14:34


The Taylor law was adopted in 1967 and basically allowed public employees the right to organize for collective bargaining purposes. It also created the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to assist in the resolution of disputes. It also placed a ban on strikes and imposed a penalty for employees that did strike. In 1974 the Triborough amendment held "that following the expiration of a contract, public employers were prohibited from unilaterally altering terms and conditions of employment while negotiating a successor agreement following the expiration of a contract" Basically- a contract never expires and the language in the contract remains unless it is negotiated out.


If two schools are eventually closed, will the community have a say in who the district rents/leases to? I had heard that BOCES was interested in renting a building. Posted on 2010-02-23 10:42:33


The Board of Education will have to approve any entity wishing to rent the space.


Why do the teachers in Mineola School District have salaries that are higher than most in Nassau county? Is there a way to negotiate going forward to bring it down lower-more within the norm? We are known to be a high paying district. Posted on 2010-02-23 10:43:02


The Mineola teachers and all the other bargaining units tend to be in the top compared to the rest of the county. That has occurred over many years of negotiating. Please read the post about the Taylor law in respect to negotiations.


There needs to be tougher negotiating with the teachers. There should be no limit to the amount of excessing and lower salaries. Do new teachers get MA plus 10 or only MA plus 30? Posted on 2010-02-23 10:44:31


When we hire a teacher and review their transcripts we calculate what step they are placed. Each teacher is different, depending on their education and experience.


What do you intend to do with the tennis courts across the street from the high school? Posted on 2010-04-13 08:56:34


The Board of Education approved resurfacing the tennis courts this school year


The triple C recommendation in my opinion seems to be a very good compromise. Thanks to the committee for their hard work in coming up with a consensus through a process which must have been very difficult and emotional. I do have some questions - what is the process for deciding whether Cross or Meadow will be closed, when will the decision be made and what factors are deciding ones. In my opinion, given Meadow is the most conducive for young children and is the newest building with large play area it is the logical choice. I heard today (but not sure if it is another rumor) that even though Willis has been recommended as the school to close in 2011 this is by no means a done deal -if so who ends up deciding and when? Also I heard that the admin offices will remain open and second floor will not be leased. I do not understand the economic rationale for this - can you please explain. Apologies if this was covered at Board meeting -I could not attend. Thanks Posted on 2010-04-13 09:13:45


The Board has asked me to conduct a “facilities comparison” of the buildings taking everything into consideration. The study will list the pros and cons of each building. The Board will continue to listen to options before they make a decision. At this point I cannot provide a timeline for a final decision. The configuration of Willis is unique. Most schools looking for space do not need the square footage of office space at Willis, therefore it will not command a high dollar price. It is ore cost effective for central office to remain here. Of course if there is a party interested in the whole building and will pay for the space, then central office will move.


Who is tasked with evaluating the districts employee benefits packages? When was a comprehensive analysis performed? Have other providers been contatced? Has there been any cost saving realized? Posted on 2010-04-13 09:22:14


Many of the employee benefits are stipulated as part of the collective bargaining agreements and cannot be changed. For example- the health insurance is specifically listed as New York State Government health insurance Program (Empire Plan). Any changes would require a negotiation. The last negotiation we were able to eliminate a very costly ‘wrap around policy’ and substitute a cheaper eye plan. All other insurances are examined yearly and ‘bid’ we appropriate.


What about retirement packages? Has the district done due diligence regarding 403b plan? If the plan is an insurance company based product the fees are probably excessive. When was the plan analyzed and put to market? Posted on 2010-04-14 13:24:03


403B plans are not managed by the district. Employees select companies and manage their own accounts. The district deducts monies from payroll and uses a third party (by law) to deposit the money into employee accounts