Long Island homeowners question school tax hikes after districts receive pandemic relief

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OLD WESTBURY, NY – Economic pressure could worsen on Long Island due to a possible hike in school taxes, something residents didn’t think was happening since dozens of districts received a windfall of pandemic aid.

Maria and Dominguez Lopes, of Old Westbury, have a fixed income and have seen the school tax hike of 1.9%.

“The economy today is out of control,” Dominguez Lopes told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Inside the Sweet Hollow Diner in Melville, school taxes were debated.

“I don’t think it should go up,” one person said.

“The taxes are quite disproportionate,” another person said.

“If it’s for schools, I don’t mind at all,” another person said.

School taxes are a key economic driver on Long Island, where they make up more than 60% of homeowners’ tax bills.

“The 1.9% is an all-time high,” said Lorraine Deller of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association. “The mental well-being of our students is of paramount importance at this time.”

She says struggles are projected for a decade but funding could dissipate in two years.

Funding is a godsend. Since 2020, Long Island schools have earned more than $850 million in federal pandemic relief funds.

“The unprecedented amount of state and federal assistance to schools on Long Island, it’s amazing that they continue to raise taxes,” said Kyle Strober of the Association for a Better Long Island.

Strober says with skyrocketing gas and grocery prices, this is the year to hold the line.

The association wants the state Department of Education to create incentives and reward school districts that submit budgets without tax increases.

“One of the traditions of Long Island is to have very strong schools … If we try to pay recurring expenses with one-time revenue, we’re going to have problems,” said Nassau BOCES Superintendent Dr. Robert Dillon.

“I know our upbringing is really good here, which is why we moved here,” said Westbury owner and parent Diana Rebholz.

Rebholz, a mother of three, is a Broadway propmaster who travels to town on the Long Island Rail Road. She does not want to focus on the growth of expenses and the increase in school taxes.

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