While the Massapequa Committee for Education and Fiscal Responsibility (MCEFR) is a young organization, it's nonetheless already making its presence felt to residents by addressing major issues they currently have with the Massapequa school district.
At a meeting held on Wednesday at and packed with concerned local residents, Chairman Joe Garbarino said that MCEFR's purpose is to ease the burden taxpayers have been forced to shoulder for far too long.
"Our purpose is to try and make the school more fiscally responsible so that our taxes will be fair...they've just been going up and up the past ten years," he said. "But we also want to keep our quality of education high at the same time."
Part of MCEFR's plan for achieving these goals lie in their attempts to re-shape the Massapequa Board of Education, a process started with the election of MCEFR member Gary Bennett to the school board in this year's district elections.
"In order to implement our plans, we need to change people on the school board," he said. "This year only two of the five members of the board feel as we do; the other three don't support us as well. Next year two members are coming off the school board, so we're going to run two candidates...with any luck, hopefully we'll be controlling the school board next year."
Bennett was the first speaker at the meeting and he made it clear that he was there merely as an active citizen and not a representative of the Massapequa school district.
Bennett's primary concern was the recent busing crisis in the district, brought about by new electronic distance-measuring systems that have rendered over 80 previously eligible families without bus service to and from school. Many of these children are now forced to cross Sunrise Highway on foot to get to school, a dangerous option that Bennett is staunchly against.
With several attempts to make Sunrise Highway a Child Safety Zone failing, Bennett has called upon Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, R-Merrick, for help in getting the kids to school safely.
"I call Senator Fuschillo every few days, and I keep telling him this needs to be addressed," he said. "He assures me that he's on the phone every day...he wants Sunrise Highway to be a Child Safety Zone as much as we do. There's just no reason why kids should have to cross Sunrise Highway."
Bennett also said that while the school district is attempting to tighten their belts, there are ways they could economize even more.
"The school district is finally getting on the right track...we're looking at a lot of ways to save money," he said. "However, in my opinion, we’re going to have to cut back on administrators...I personally believe that we have too many, especially compared to other school districts.”
Other guests included accountant Dianne Sheffield and technology specialist Joseph Marsh, who spoke on school tax control and improving the flow of information from the school district to residents, respectively.
In the upcoming months, MCEFR intends to start holding regular public meetings to continue to address taxpayer concerns and give local citizens a forum to speak. Meeting schedules can be views on MCEFR’s website.