Letter From HUFSD PTA Council Executive Board Regarding Disparate Treatment By The Town Board & IDA
We are writing in support of comments made by Emily Rogan, the President of the Huntington School District’s Board of Education at the Town Board meeting of September 16, 2014 regarding the disparate treatment of our district by both the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency and the Huntington Town Board. In recent months the Suffolk County IDA has approved various tax abatements on properties that are located within the boundaries of the Huntington School District. While the Town Board does not make the decisions with regard to these tax abatements, it is disingenuous for our Town Board to hide behind that fact and act as if they do not have the ability to advocate for the children of our district in this regard. The district leadership has made statements, both in person and in writing, opposing the continued tax abatements, while the Town Board simple makes statements that such matters are out of their control. This is not the advocacy that our Town should be providing to the children of our district.
The primary mission of the PTA Council Executive Board, which is comprised of the PTA Council Officers and the PTA Presidents of each school in the Huntington School District, is to advocate for all students in our district. With New York’s unfunded education mandates, a 2% property tax cap, and increased enrollment in our schools we are concerned that the Town Board and the IDA are not considering all the factors when reviewing development opportunities. The concern also extends to decisions the Huntington Town Board has made over recent years that have taken properties off the tax roll through eminent domain, as an example. The loss of these property taxes to the school districts cost the tax payers significant monies each year. In addition, there are apartments being built in new developments, above retail establishments and in open lot spaces around the district. While it is unclear what impact these apartments will have on the district’s enrollment, Huntington schools are one of a few districts on Long Island that continue to see increases in enrollment. This increased enrollment and increase building could push our schools to capacity. While development is important to the local economy, there needs to be a balance to ensure other community groups, such as our schools, are not negatively impacted by these decisions.
It is incumbent upon the Huntington Town Board to advocate for the students of SD3. While we appreciate that the Town Board represents all eight districts in Huntington, the comparison between Huntington and Half Hollow Hills made by Councilman Cuthbertson in response to Mrs. Rogan’s statement is beyond credulity. The abatements afforded to Canon which affected HHH were made to attract a top tier employer offering thousands of quality jobs in an industrial/commercial zone. The abatements in the Huntington district have been made to small employers offering a handful of low paying jobs which will not add a significant benefit to the community.
We ask not only that our district leadership have opportunities to be heard and have a seat at the table when decisions are being made that will impact our students but that the Town leadership advocate for the students of our district. Moreover, when our district leaders, especially those who are volunteers, do reach out, whether in phone calls or during a public meeting, they deserve respect and answers, not dismissive and defensive statements that do not move us towards solutions for our community. Such advocacy will not be at the expense of the other districts in Huntington, but to protect the education and lifestyle of the 4500 students in Huntington SD3.
HUFSD PTA Council Executive Board
Editor’s note: You can view Ms. Rogan addressing the Town Board at the September 16, 2014 Meeting here.