The Farmingdale Board of Education and administration held a required public hearing on Tuesday regarding the proposed 2002-2003 school budget. The budget, on which residents will vote next Tuesday, May 21, represents an approximate 7.85 percent increase from the current budget, mainly due to a lack of state aid.
At the meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Business John Lorentz presented a review of the budget to the board and a few residents in attendance. Lorentz explained the main budget development parameters, which include maintaining the current instructional program, honoring all contractual obligations and incorporating a middle school transition team to prepare for the sixth-graders' move to Howitt in 2003. Lorentz noted that the budget is proposed at $100,857,346, an increase of $7,340,026 from this year's adopted budget. He outlined how budget funds are spent, noting that the majority of the budget, 74 percent, is spent on personnel.
The assistant superintendent noted that in addition to the lack of state aid this year, having gone from an approximate 20 percent from this year's budget to an approximate 17 percent estimated for next year; other items included in the budget are debt services (payments on the bond referendum) and contract transportation, as the district is preparing for the expected upcoming legislation requiring shoulder harnesses for all students riding buses. Since this will require additional transportation vehicles, as less seating will be available when the belts are installed, the district is slowly phasing into that requirement.
Rose Gannon, president of the Farmingdale Council of PTAs, presented a letter to the board regarding the PTA's belief that the proposed budget is in fact sound and that, upon reviewing the full budget, the council deemed the increase justifiable, mainly due to the transition of the sixth grade to the middle school and the increase of unfunded mandated programs.
Following Lorentz's presentation, former school board member Dr. Dolores Saxton addressed the board.
"I'm surprised to see again that we're amongst a lonely crowd," Dr. Saxton said. "I don't know what the school board can do to get the community out here. We need to get the community to recognize what the school board does."
Dr. Saxton added that she thanks the board for a sound budget, noting that she hopes they receive the respect and gratitude they deserve for quite possibly the smoothest budget year that has come about in a long time.
Board Trustee Robert Guarino thanked the administration for presenting a budget that is feasible while allowing the continuation of the district's programs.
Dr. Philip Acinapuro, board trustee, noted that the government needs to be held more responsible for its actions.
"I know the magic public education can bring about," he said. "This [budget] was brought about thanks to the hard work of students, teachers and parents [but] New York State has fallen flat on its face. Eighty percent of the revenues come from taxpayers, 18 percent from the state and two percent from the federal government. You can't call that responsible."
The Farmingdale Board of Education annually lobbies both locally and regionally for additional state aid for the district. This year, all districts were hit with a decrease in state aid, causing a need in tax increases.
While the proposed budget does represent an increase, the board and administration agreed that it remains conservative; maintaining the academic programs in the district but not necessarily expanding them as much as they would have liked.
"I beg everyone here to show the same dedication as we board members show for our students," Dr. Acinapuro added. "Please go out and vote for the budget."