Key Issues

- Improve communications with the community

- Stop waste and mismanagement

- Eliminate conflicts of interest

- Effective school budget spending

- Transparency of public information

- Holding the line on property taxes

- Evaluation and restoration of programs

- Implement a "pay as you go" technology vision

- Establish a District-wide multi year plan

Quote of the Day

Great Quotes

There's a way to do it better - find it.
Thomasi Edison

"The problem is not that America doesn't spend enough money on education -- we spend enormous amounts, far more than any other nation. But we're not getting a sufficient return on our investment. The fact is, our education system looks a lot like the U.S. auto industry in the 1970s -- stuck in a flabby, inefficient, outdated production model driven by the needs of employees rather than consumers." -- Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor NYC

"If you want to make enemies, try to change something." -- Woodrow Wilson

“Never interrupt your enemy when he's making a mistake” --
Napolean Bonaparte (1769 - 1821)

If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else. ~ Yogi Berra

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." -- Ronald Reagan

"The only thing you take with you when you're gone is what you leave behind." -John Allston



Up in Albany, they are at it again. Escalating school taxes are eating us alive, but the politicians are afraid to address the real problem. The STAR program was only a Band-Aid that gave some of us temporary relief, and now our legislators are trying to invent another one ["Income-based cap on school taxes praised," News, April 24]. This time a "circuit breaker" law is proposed. It would give some tax relief to those with lower incomes, but it would also reduce school revenue. They want the state of New York to make up the difference. All of this tinkering is strictly with the funding side of the equation. The real problem however, is with school spending. It has been going up three times faster than the rate of inflation, but this is the political third rail. Politicians are afraid to touch it. Few people want to serve on our school boards; it's a no-pay job. As a consequence, board after board is packed with teachers, the spouses of teachers and their best friends in the PTA. In their hands, school spending is out of control. The teachers union, the most powerful lobby in the state, likes things just the way they are. What legislator who wants to be re-elected would attempt to limit school spending?

James E. Stubenrauch

SchoolWatch Calls For Boycott of Law Firms Involved in Pension Scandal,0,4562080.story

DiNapoli suspends $106,700 lawyer pension


4:58 PM EDT, April 25, 2008

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has suspended the $106,700 a year pension of a Valley Stream attorney who had received 21 years of retroactive pension credits from Nassau County and Hempstead town, even though he had been paid as an independent contractor and not as an employee, officials said Friday.Albert D'Agostino, 64, would have to pay back most, if not all, of the roughly $791,359 he's collected since retiring in October 2000, if DiNapoli's office determines he was not a legitimate employee, officials said. In addition, he would have to pay back $83,015 in health benefits he has received."We suspended his pension while we look at all the entities that reported him as an employee, to see if any were eligible," said DiNapoli spokeswoman Emily DeSantis.

She added that the comptroller would recalculate D'Agostino's pension and "most likely reduce his benefit."Newsday, which wrote about D'Agostino's retroactive pension credits two weeks ago, has reported on a number of attorneys who, while working as independent contractors for school districts, also received state pension credits as if they were employees.Yesterday, DiNapoli said more pensions could be suspended. "We'll continue to dig until we're confident that state pensions are only going to those people that rightly earned them," he said.D'Agostino was also reported as an employee by three school districts – Lawrence, Valley Stream 30 and North Merrick – and the Village of Valley Stream, while being paid additional fees as a contractor. He accumulated a total of 28 years credit in the state retirement system.D'Agostino declined comment Friday.

Meanwhile, SchoolWatch, a Long Island advocacy group, posted a statement on its Web site urging a boycott of law firms "involved in the pension scandal.""We as taxpayers simply cannot sit back and continue to feed these 'fat cat' lawyers and their firms. . ." the group said. "Millions of dollars have been stuffed in the pockets of these firms and attorneys, and it must stop."

In deciding in 2000 to give D'Agostino the retroactive credits, the state relied on letters from two prominent people connected to the Nassau County Planning Commission, an advisory board where D'Agostino served as part-time counsel. The state also considered his 1099 payments – tax forms used to pay independent contractors, not employees.Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman said D'Agostino was placed on the county payroll in 1999. When he retired in 2000 and secured the retroactive credits, he also got lifetime health benefits.Weitzman said the county has paid $83,015 so far for D'Agostino's family health coverage. If DiNapoli determines that D'Agostino is not entitled to the pension, the county would end his benefits and seek to recover the $83,015.Weitzman has asked the state to refund the $102,246 the county paid to fund D'Agostino's pension.

Last month, DiNapoli froze the pension of attorney Lawrence Reich, who Newsday found was reported as a full-time employee by five school districts simultaneously. DiNapoli determined that Reich was not an employee and said Reich would have to pay back money he wasn't entitled to. Reich, who retired in 2006 with a $61,459 pension, has about 10 years of eligible service with the state.

The FBI, the state Attorney General, the IRS and the Nassau District Attorney have launched investigations.Last week, DiNapoli revoked pension memberships of four Albany attorneys who were reported as employees by an upstate BOCES and reduced service credit for a fifth attorney. Earlier this month, he announced new regulations for local governments to determine who is an employee.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.


NEWS FLASH: E.I. Capital Fund Farce is rescinded!

At the last BOE meeting, Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - The East Islip Board of Education voted to rescind a proposed proposition that would have allowed the formation of a $4M capital fund for technology upgrades.
This about face was spearheaded and brought about by SchoolWatch officials, who, in one fell swoop, have just saved the community over $4M!

The outcry began with SchoolWatch President Frank Gerace, at the numerous Budget Advisory Committee meetings that have been held since October 2007. His doubts about the creation of the fund picked up momentum throughout the committee(the Budget Advisory Committee voted unanimously to not support the formation of the Capital Fund!) and in the community as more details were released and it became apparent that there had been an ulterior motive for setting up the fund.
They wanted a place to funnel your hard earned money into! After all, how did we go from Austerity to having a $5M surplus!

Even Glenn Reed (a member of the Technology Committee), who had been a proponent of this fund, sent a last minute e-mail to the BOE indicating, he too now agreed, that the technology upgrade could be implemented on a "pay as you go" basis with funds that the district already had available!

Congratulations SchoolWatchers!

Note: A Schoolwatch member wrote and distributed a document entitled, ‘The Truth About the Technology Vote in East Islip" which pointed out the faults with the proposition and the proper way to fund technology. It's readily apparent that the BOE read this document and adopted our suggestions! (See below - It is posted in its entirety)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Truth About The Technology Vote

The East Islip School District is trying to create a 1.3 million dollar technology fund by proposing a referendum to the community to be voted upon on May 20th, the same day as the budget vote. What do you know about this referendum? Is this a good idea? Is this good for the community?
Yes, the technology in the district needs to be upgraded. We need new computers with up to date Microsoft operating systems (some of the computers that the children are learning on still use windows 95). The question is, is setting up this fund the best way for the district to fund the acquisition of new technology. You may decide for yourself.
The 2006-2007 school year in East Islip was conducted on a contingency budget as the result of the community rejecting two different budgets proposed by the district. The community banded together and rolled up their sleeves to raise enough money to fund Sports in the High School and to retain a number of after school clubs. The children lost a great deal academically, especially in the High School and the Elementary Schools. The Teaching staff was reduced. Children on all levels had to go without. Everyone was affected because on contingency, money was tight.
At the end of the 2006-2007 school year, after denying our children critical programs and being more than willing to deny them athletic and social experiences, The East Islip School District ended the year with a 4 million dollar surplus, which was used to create an Unreserved Fund Balance. An Unreserved Fund Balance is a type of emergency account, money that can be kept by a school district that is over and above the actual budget, and can be saved and used in the event of an unforeseen fiscal need, a type of rainy day savings account. New York State law states that an Unreserved Fund balance cannot be more than 3% of the schools fiscal year budget (the law is increasing the amount to 4% of the budget for the 2008-2009 school year).
The following is taken from the NYSED Budgeting Handbook:
“Year-end fund balances of school districts are the result of the recognition of revenues in excess of amounts estimated and expenditures that are less than the total amount of appropriations. It should be noted that there is no provision in the law or regulations for deficit or negative fund balances.
The total fund balance of a school district's general fund is made up of two parts: Reserved Fund Balance and Unreserved Fund Balance.
The reserved portion of the fund balance is made up of moneys that may be used only for very specific purposes and is, therefore, not available to be used for tax reduction in the next subsequent fiscal year.
The unreserved portion of the fund balance is the amount which is uncommitted and is, therefore, available to be used to reduce real property taxes in the next fiscal year. It should be noted, however, that a part of this unreserved fund balance may be retained by the district and not used for tax reduction in the next upcoming year. This retained portion is called the unappropriated fund balance and is limited by §1318 of the Real Property Tax Law to an amount equal to 2% of the upcoming year's budget ( increased to 3% in 2007-2008 and 4% in 2008-2009). The remaining portion of the unreserved fund balance that is used for tax reduction, is known as the appropriated fund balance.
The legally retained unappropriated fund balance provides cash flow and could be available to meet unanticipated ordinary contingent expenditures without voter approval. This fund balance may also be appropriated, with voter approval, for unanticipated non-contingent expenditures or the funding of certain reserve funds.
Since the term fund balance could apply to the total fund balance or any part of it, school district officials should be certain that any discussion of disposition of balances begins with a clear statement as to the nature of the balance being discussed.”
The budget for the East Islip School District for the 2007-2008 school year is $93,931,066. The maximum amount allowed in the unreserved fund balance, by law, for the East Islip School District at the end of the 2006-2007 school year is 2.8 million dollars. The total unreserved fund balance, as of 6/30/07 was $4,155,136. The district was 1.3 million dollars over the fund balance limit.
Now the district wants to designate this 1.3 million dollars for technology, 1.3 million of the over 4 million dollars that they have already overtaxed you, instead of returning it to the taxpayers by applying it to the new tax levy. The district has been padding various line items in the budget for years, overinflating the actual needs for covering expenses and moving money around from code to code in a virtual shell game. They are doing this to hide the fact that they are budgeting more money than they need to cover various expenses, hiding it from the public in the complexity of a school budget.
Do you know that if this Technology fund is approved, the money cannot be used for any other purpose? Do you know that if this Technology fund is approved, the money cannot be used for at least a year? The money cannot be used without ANOTHER vote of the community approving the expenditure. We will have to wait until May 19, 2009 to vote on them spending this money. Even if the community approves the expenditure, the children will not see any benefit from this referendum until the 2009-2010 school year, at the earliest. What happens to that money if the community votes no on the expenditure? Does this sound like the best route towards addressing our immediate technology needs? Do you know that the district can add up to 1 million a year to this fund, over 10 years, as long as the technology fund balance does not exceed 4 million? Do you know that this fund will be supported by money in excess of future unreserved fund balances, money you are supplying them through inflated taxes, the result of artificially high budgets? We are inviting the district to pad future budgets, knowing full well that they will be able to transfer money into the Technology fund that they would otherwise be legally obligated to return to the taxpayers by applying it to the following years tax levy. This method for funding our technology is fraught with pitfalls and will exacerbate distrust between the district and the community.
No one is denying that the district needs to upgrade its technology, and soon. The district should fund this by creating a line item for technology in this and future budgets so we will have better idea going forward as to what our expenses are and how our needs are being addressed. If the 1.3 million were applied to reduce the 2008-2009-tax levy and 1.3 million were added to the budget as a line item, the budget-to-budget increase would not change at all, and the district could start spending the money to improve our technology in September. The district is working on a five-year technology plan. The Beacon of hope states,” Once the Technology Reserve is approved and funded, the district can begin planning in earnest to meet the goals of its five-year plan for instructional technology.” How can they meet the goals when the funding is uncertain and is attained through chicanery, padding of budgets and clever accounting? This plan to improve our technology is, at best, a poorly planned endeavor, and at worst, an attempt to fool the community into thinking it is providing improved technology to the students of East Islip with absolutely no property tax implications to the tax paying public. Vote no on the Technology referendum and ask the district to fund our technology needs through conventional methods.
Please email this to all your friends and ask them to do the same. We need to get the truth out to as many people as possible. Thank you.

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