Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS

In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.

All inquiries should be addressed to the Larchmont Historical Society.

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Ideas to Reduce School Taxes

School taxes in Larchmont and Mamaroneck have increased faster than inflation for many years.  My taxes have more than tripled in 20 years. 

The point of this letter is not to complain about the increases but to offer suggestions to reduce them. 

Attention should be given to generating more non-tax revenue.  Existing non-tax revenue sources should be reviewed.  For example, the Continuing Education program uses the district’s facilities.  It charges residents and non-residents the same fee.  Other districts, e.g. White Plains, charge non-residents more.  My understanding is organizations that use  district buildings pay only incremental costs, e.g. extra janitorial services, rather than market prices for the privilege.  This puts the “wear and tear” burden solely on school taxes.  Non-academic use of the district’s athletic facilities should be priced too.  The Hommocks pool fee is a precedent for pricing athletic facilities. 

One potential revenue source is the use of district’s auditoriums, especially the main high school auditorium and the one at the Hommocks. These are some of the largest facilities in the area.  When not needed, they  could be rented to organizations such as the Emelin for productions with audiences too large for their building, or to local businesses for large meetings. The key is to gain non-tax revenue from the district’s assets. 

Another potential source of revenue is the alumni of the various schools, especially the high school.  My New York City public high school organized its alumni more than a decade ago and is now generating hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through alumni fund raising efforts.  A similar program could be established in Mamaroneck. 

The district indicated recently that $500,000 was set aside a few years ago for work on athletic fields.  The status of these funds was not mentioned in the 2009-2010 budget presentation.  These funds should be used to fix some of the field problems and to reduce next year’s tax burden. 

The district also needs to focus on expense reductions.  Much has been said about this topic.  One item has been left out.  The district is addressing its expense constraints by reducing expenses in all programs.  At some point this will strangle the programs.  Instead, the district should prioritize its programs from an academic perspective, eliminate the lower priority efforts and fully fund the higher priority efforts.  This is not easy.  However, if it is not done, all of the programs will be funded for mediocrity instead of the higher priority programs being funded for excellence. 

It may take several years to fully address the issues causing the higher than inflation increases.  The district should prepare a rolling multi-year financial plan and share it with the community at least annually.  This will highlight the issues and provide the time and visibility to resolve them. 

I hope these suggestions are used to minimize the tax increase for 2009-2010 and can do the same for several years into the future. 

Rodman K. Reef
Larchmont, NY

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1 comment to Ideas to Reduce School Taxes

  • blobel

    There probably are few who would argue against the value of education, safety, and health for our residents, all investments in the our country’s future. There probably are more who would argue about how these goals are to be achieved and funded.

    It appears that the school administrators and the School Board are starting to come to grips with our changing times, our changing economy and changing world. This is to be commended. But, more progress needs to be made more quickly in these critical fast-moving times.

    Are we as a community accepting guidelines of the twentieth century and applying it to education of those who will live in the 21st century? Are we developing too many curriculums rather than developing the skills of learning and the thirst for knowledge while throttling creativity which would allow all to connect their talents to achievements?

    Perhaps instead of a series of increasing expenses, for what may already have become less education, our schools needs to revisit some basic assumptions about the most effective ways to provide educational services. Perhaps the various governing bodies existing among our neighboring municipalities need to do the same.

    Many have heard of the significant renovations required in our aging school building, along with similar situations in other municipal facilities including the libraries, senior centers, government centers, etc. Many have heard of the problems involving vehicular and pedestrian access to the schools, traffic problems affecting the surrounding homes and possible difficulties of fire engines trying to travel through the congested areas, inadequate parking, inadequate field space, etc.

    Do we have a courageous municipal leader, among our schools districts and the other governments in our towns and villages who will support reviewing the various facilities and determining the cost and social impact of building a multi-purpose complex including schools, libraries, senior centers, recreation centers, government centers, etc., rather than continuous independent renovations of in place disparate buildings. All of these independent facilities are part of education and part of community life and could involve all our residents throughout their life spans.

    A new facility could be multi-story, freeing up valuable land space. The ‘recovered’ land could be sold to a developer of work force and market rate housing, parking, etc to contribute to the cost of construction of this new ‘community’ educational facility.

    The new facility could be made accessible to all in a location appropriate to our changed and changing communities, require less expensive maintenance, be friendly to our environment and meet the needs of the 21st century.

    Paul Krugman said, ‘The only important structural obstacles to world prosperity are the obsolete doctrines that clutter the minds of men (sic).’ Do we have a leader among our many inefficiently small municipal governments or among our inefficiently small municipalities who will risk looking to lead us to a best solution for now and the future or do we have people content to sit back in their memories of what was. It is only the future that is at stake.