Letter to Editor School Consolidation

September 1, 2010

September 1, 2010

To the Editor:

The property tax burden in Westchester and Putnam Counties as well as throughout New York State is simply unsustainable. Multiple commissions have pointed to the number one cause of these high taxes as too many government entities. With over 10,000 unique taxing districts in the state, of which just under 700 are school districts (over 60% of our property tax bill is levied to pay for schools), we must begin the hard job of scaling back.

On Thursday, September 16th I have invited experts to join me at Cortlandt Town Hall (1 Heady Street, Cortlandt Manor) from 7-9 P.M. to discuss sharing and consolidation of school districts. When I started my career teaching in Virginia I was part of a countywide school district. The quality of education was high, but the overhead was not. One of the experts who will be speaking at my forum conducted a study in 2007 comparing Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island to Fairfax and Loudon counties in Northern Virginia. While they have similar demographics, a much more complex and costly infrastructure was and is in place in New York than in Virginia. I am looking forward to hearing more about how we can learn from other states to improve our infrastructure in New York without sacrificing (and maybe even improving) the quality of our educational outcomes.

Recently, I attended a town meeting in one of the communities in my district. They were addressing the issue of police consolidation. I commend the local officials for their work and progress in this area. Although there are many factors to consider before a decision can be made, I was so pleased to see an in depth discussion taking place with input from all interested parties, especially community members. It was one of the first times in recent memory I can recall community members actively engaging in a discussion about ways to improve their government structures. I believe these conversations, so necessary to reduce our costs, would not be happening without the state funded local government efficiency grants or without the new state legislation which puts the issue of dissolution and consolidation of towns and villages into the hands of the public. I look forward to the resulting savings the talks will hopefully produce when decisions and changes are made.

Please join me for my discussion about schools on September 16th. I welcome all interested parties including community members, school boards, teachers, school administrators and business officials, the business community, realtors, local elected officials and all others who would like to listen, ask questions, and engage in conversation around the issue of making our school systems more affordable now and sustainable for future generations.

Sandy Galef
Assemblywoman, 90th AD
(914) 941-1111