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The 2009/10 proposed Farmingdale Board of Education budget will have one of the lowest increases in over 30 years, according the district's school board. The new budget, announced to voters at a series of local meetings, will have a tax levy increase of 1.33 percent.

"These are difficult times for everyone," said School Board President Shari Bardash-Eivers. "But our district has consistently planned well over the years so that economic conditions like the current one can be handled without affecting our programs. This year's budget was geared towards maintaining our programs - this had been the plan even before the economic downturn."

On Tuesday, April 21, the Farmingdale Board of Education met to adopt the proposed budget for the 2009/10 school year. At $143,969,743, the proposed budget maintains all current academic programs and services while limiting expenditures to an increase of only 3.88 percent. Highlights of the proposed budget include continuation of a variety of class offerings at the high school level as well as small class size at the elementary level which has been proven to maximize learning opportunities for each student within the district.

"We had three long-term budget objectives," stated Farmingdale Schools Superintendent John Lorentz. "One, we wanted sustainable programs and appropriate flexibility; two, we wanted protection from state aid and other fluctuations; and three, we wanted a predictable and acceptable tax levy."

One of the unique aspects of this newest budget is a proposed capital reserve fund, which has never been done before. "We're proposing to establish a capital reserve fund at a not-to-exceed value," said Lorentz. "It would act like a savings account and allow for the accumulation of capital funds. At year end, it would be funded by a left-over balance, reallocation of reserves, and/or capital appropriations. With this fund, we would be able to go to the voters with a specific proposition to ask to use the funds for a specific project, such as new windows, univents, or controls."

The capital reserve fund is one of the three propositions that voters will have to decide on Tuesday May 19. The other two propositions are to vote for or against the proposed budget and to establish walk-in voter registration. Presently, according to Lorentz, there are restrictions to vote. This new proposition will give voters more flexibility in being able to vote.

According to Bardash-Eivers, the new budget maintains all programs and does not eliminate anything, including after-school programs or AP courses, nor does it diminish programs for special-needs children.

"We have always educated all of our students regardless of their special needs or English-speaking abilities," she added. "This year is no different as we have not seen a significant increase in either population. However, we are always re-evaluating our special needs students to ensure that they are receiving the highest level of attention and education in the least restrictive environment."

According to Bardash-Eivers, school budgets vary by district size, state aid received, and population demographics.

"I'm not sure that I would compare our budget to other districts' budgets," she said. "But if you compare how our budget dealt with the current economic conditions, we were able to put forth a responsible budget without cutting any programs or staff, while increasing this year's budget versus last year's budget by 3.88 percent, which will result in an increase in tax levy of 1.33 percent. I believe that tax levy increase [1.33 percent] will be on the low side when compared with other districts on Long Island."

The board has hosted several budget workshops over the past several months. Upcoming meetings to discuss the budget will take place May 6 at 2 p.m. at the library for senior citizens; May 7 at noon at Bella Napoli for the Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce; May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at The Nutty Irishman for the Central Oyster Bay Democratic Club; in all, 19 meetings will be held for residents to learn and question the proposed budget. The board will continue to meet for the regular board meeting on May 6 and for the public hearing on May 12. The annual budget vote and trustee election will be held on Tuesday, May 19 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Howitt Middle School East Gymnasium. A special voter registration will be held on Saturday, May 9, in the Howitt East lobby from noon to 9 p.m. For voter registration and absentee ballot information, please contact District Clerk Josephine Murray at 752-6552.

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