By Susan Squillace
Continuing in a series of budget workshops, Farmingdale School District administrators and the board of education at an April 7 meeting reviewed the textbook inventory, capital projects, the facilities proposition, and possible budget reductions.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Dr. Robert Schultz reviewed the textbook summary, which, at $517,381 is an increase of $64,036 over last year's budget. This represents 1 percent of the total budget.
The increase in textbook spending is mostly due to the projected increase in enrollment, replacing lost and damaged texts, and updating books to keep up with the new standards. Major increases are seen in English textbooks (an increase of $10,214), mathematics textbooks (an increase of $9,401), books designated for parochial schools (an increase of $10,000), science textbooks (an increase of $13,341) and social studies textbooks (an increase of $10,027).
Assistant Superintendent for Business Dr. William Fanning outlined possible changes in appropriations for the proposed Capital Projects budget line ($1,300,000). In order to complete the stage and house lighting project in the high school, it was proposed that $100,000 be taken from the roofing line and used for the lighting. Board member Troy Rosasco expressed concern about the amount of money that is being allotted to the lighting project, while the money for repairing the athletic fields was only $75,000. He said that if the proposition to repair the field fails, "then we are saying that the auditorium lighting is more a priority than the fields. Do we not have the responsibility to fund the athletic fields adequately?"
Board President Josephine Macchia replied that decisions need to be made based on what can be done with the $1.3 million that is in the capital projects line. The public knows that the $825,000 proposition will make a significant difference in the fields and will vote positively for that proposition, she noted. She added that in addition to the lighting in the auditorium, the sound system should also be a priority.
Dr. Fanning stated that the cost of the sound system would be $60,000, and that there is no available money in the budget for it. Board Vice-president William Barrett was concerned about decreasing the money from the roofing line, and asked if there were any significant leaks that needed immediate attention. Farmingdale Schools Superintendent Gerard Dempsey replied that the most severe leaks were already fixed.
Dempsey then discussed possible reductions to the proposed increase to the school budget. The budget increase, which was originally presented at 6.92 percent could be lowered to 5.95 percent by making certain cuts, he noted. A reduction in the increase in staffing in English and math at the high school (which will not eliminate the new courses that were put into those programs), was discussed. Eliminating two remedial math positions that were actually supposed to be cut from the original budget, but were missed, would decrease the amount further.
There was some discussion involving whether or not $20,000 that is allocated as reserve funds for students who may need intensive support at BOCES programs, should be removed from the budget. These funds have not been used for a few years, and so revert back to the general fund balance every year.
Rosasco stated that they should never budget for things where the need never occurs. "Why should we ask the taxpayers for loan a until you are ready to spend it?," he offered. Fanning replied that there are unpredictable budget items such as the amount of fuel oil needed, or how much Special Education services will cost. Costs in these areas can be dramatically different every year. The money budgeted in these lines provides a safeguard in case it is needed.
The guidance position was discussed, and it was determined that this one position (partially in Howitt Middle School and partially in the high school) that was restored in this proposed budget (having been cut in 1991) should remain. Assistant Superintendent for Administration Barbara Horsley reported that the PAGE program has a guidance counselor who works with these students as well as having a small case load from the regular student population.
Macchia was concerned that only one guidance counselor is assigned to the PAGE program. She said she believes that the program should be incorporated into the assignments of all the counselors, so that all the guidance counselors could work with these students. The PAGE program itself came under discussion, and will be discussed again at a future date.
It was also announced that on April 22, a public hearing will be held in the Howitt Auditorium on the proposed budget.
During the public participation, Emil Coppola, a local civic association leader, asked the board to cut the budge increase further. "We have to look at the elderly people," he said. "They need a break. We're not even talking about building and adding rooms. We have to be conservative now, because next year we'll need even more money." Tina Diamond, president of Farmingdale PTA Council, said that she had lobbying letters of 300 parents that the PTA is sending out now to local legislators. She asked if the senior citizens would join in signing those letters requesting more state aid. "If Long Island yells enough, somebody is bound to hear us," she said. Machia stated that on April 26 the Farmingdale Baseball Day Parade will be held, and that since many legislators come to this parade, it would be a good time to speak to them.
The meeting, as usual, was held in the Howitt School Board Room, which was decorated with drawings, paintings and photography from district students.