A team representing the will hit the road early March 1. They’re on a mission – a lobbying mission – to meet with legislators in Albany and keep the lines of communication open. The trip, originally scheduled for Feb.8, was postponed due to bad weather..
Barbara J. Horsley, assistant superintendent for the district, is a key organizer of the annual trip. “We take one bus and usually between 30 and 40 people go. They include people who work for the school district, members of the community, including someone from the Fire Department, as well as some students,” she said.
It’s an early call, as the bus leaves at 6 a.m. for what’s scheduled to be a busy day at the state’s capitol. Nine legislative meetings are on the their agenda. “We split into three teams of ten or more people and visit with the legislators,” Horsley said. “We have nine meetings with legislators, so each team will do three meetings.”
The benefits of these meetings can be far reaching. “We’re keeping communication open between the legislators and school district. We’re looking to present our perspective on various things that they’re proposing,” Horsley said. “They’ll ask how it would impact us and we can explain from our perspective. It may have an impact on what the legislators do because they’re likely to be more mindful of that.”
The group will present legislators at the meetings with a prepared document regarding legislative proposals for the 2011- 2012 budget Horsley says. Copies will also be dropped off to all the lawmakers from Long Island across the legislative buildings.
A proposal of particular concern this year is the Nassau County’s tax certiorari process. If a business or homeowner believes that the county has assessed their taxes incorrectly, they have the right to file a tax grievance, which is reviewed by a special commission. Property taxes are reduced and refunds are potentially issued if the grievance, known as a tax certiorari, is won. County Executive Mangano’s reform requires schools and towns that receive tax dollars in error to pay back those dollars.
“This has shifted the burden of disbursements to school districts,” Horsley said. “We have to put a line in our budget to pay back tax assessment grievances that are won by taxpayers and due money back. The County does the assessment yet the school has to pay back any discrepancies.”
There are many more other unfunded mandates, she adds, that are putting heavy burdens on the school’s budget. “Laws are created that we have to spend money to pay for. The state used to send us copies of Regents exams and now we have to pay for them. They’re shedding a lot on their end and we’re paying more on our end,” she said. Another point the assistant superintendent raises is the higher cost of operating on Long Island, noting that things are much more expensive here than in other parts of the state.
The day of lobbying is all about information gathering and serves as a great communication tool. “It involves a lot of planning and is a wonderful educational experience for the people who go,” Horsley said. “The students, in particular, who are selected by teachers in the Social Studies program, also get a real world glimpse into government and economics. They get a lot out of meeting legislators face to face. It’s very positive.”