Written by Melissa Argueta: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 27 April 2012 00:00
Despite a challenging school budget season, some positive news for taxpayers was announced at the most recent Garden City Board of Education on Tuesday, April l7. After the board unanimously approved a contract renegotiation with the Garden City Teacher’s Association (GCTA), School Board President Colleen Foley announced the district will save a total of approximately $675,000 and the projected tax levy will be lowered to 3.54 percent (with STAR).
At the start of the meeting, Foley read the terms of the memorandum of agreement with the GCTA, the teacher’s bargaining unit. Foley maintained that the settlement of the teachers’ contract allows the board of education to maintain its focus on the educational mission of the district instead of shifting attention to a potentially lengthy and disruptive negotiation process.
“The board appreciates the community’s long-standing support for the educational system here in Garden City. As the community’s representatives, we also understand that the economic environment has strained our community and its resources. The reopening and renegotiation of terms for the last year of the existing contract, combined with the four-year extension, provides significant savings for the district each year,” she said.
“In addition, the reduction of projected labor cost increases provides a much more stable labor cost environment and allows the district to conduct more extensive and accurate financial planning,” Foley added.
According to the board’s statement, if the existing contract were to remain in place through June 2013, GCTA members would have received a 1.25 percent salary increase next year and a guaranteed move along the salary schedule — known as a “step” increase for experience — in September 2012, as well as the remainder of the step increase delayed in 2011-12. The newly negotiated terms for the 2012-13 year include a 1 percent annual increase with a delay in step movement until April 2013.
This reduction and the delay in step movement are the equivalent of approximately $675,000 in savings for the district in the budget year 2012-2013. “As a result, we have been able to achieve a significant reduction in the projected tax increase for the coming school year,” Foley told the audience.
In school year 2013-14, the contract extension provides for a 0.5 percent annual increase, with half-year delay of incremental step. Foley said this is again a substantial savings to the district.
In school year 2014-15, the contract calls for a 1 percent salary increase with a full year freeze on step — a significant component of the contract. In school years 2015-16 and 2016-17, there is a 1 percent increase each year, and a return to movement on step each year. The new contract also includes two freezes of the auxiliary salary schedule (stipends paid to coaches and club advisors) in years 2013-14 and 2015-16, Foley said.
Additional savings are achieved by limiting the times a teacher can receive a salary increase for completing additional educational credits.
Overall, the district gained a reopening of an existing contract with significant savings that will immediately impact the 2012-13 budget proposal, according to Foley. In total, the extension includes a 3.5 percent salary increase over four years, a second delay in step movement, the loss of a full step increase – meaning the teachers will have a full year freeze on step, limits on salary increases when a teacher completes additional course work, and two freezes of auxiliary salaries.
In terms of retirement incentives, one will be offered in 2013, and an additional incentive will be offered in 2017. The district has agreed to a reduction of the annual staff development requirement by 8 hours.
The school board president also stated that the district “has confidence that GCTA members will continue their tradition of completing considerable professional development in order to remain current in their respective fields and reach the levels of effectiveness required by the new professional performance standards embodied in New York State APPR laws and regulations.
“The board also agreed that in the event it is necessary to abolish positions as a result of budgeting considerations or declining enrollment, teacher layoffs shall be determined in accord with the provisions of Education Law 2510 as said statute exists as of April 1, 2012,” she said.
Of health care, Foley reiterated that past and present boards of education have always negotiated with the intent of focusing district resources on activities that strengthen student achievement and sustain the robust programming for which the school district is known.
“Garden City was the first school district to break through the health care contribution ceiling and remains one of the leaders in this area. Teachers will continue to contribute 25 percent for their family health care premiums, the level regarded as highest among Nassau County school districts,” she said.
Foley explained that the new labor agreement also preserves the district’s control of all processes used to evaluate professional personnel, an item which has been the source of contentious negotiations in many other school districts due to the state’s new Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) laws and regulations.
Prior to the adoption of the budget, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen recalled the start of the budget process that this community goes through a lengthy examination of his proposal. “With the changes that the board asked for over the past several sessions, coupled with the newly approved memorandum of agreement with the GCTA… we now have a new budget proposal,” Feirsen said.
Feirsen said the new proposed overall budget is now $104,215, 528, which represents a $3,089,470 or 3.06 percent budget-to-budget increase. The projected tax levy increase is to 3.54 percent (previous 4.25 percent). The maximum allowable tax levy is now 4.2 percent, (previously 4.3 percent).
Since the original budget presentation, the administration has proposed the following reductions: Debt service on the bond due to a very favorable interest rate ($61.419); athletics: elimination of strength and conditioning program ($9,804); transportation: elimination of one bus and two vans ($130,000); reduction of classroom furniture ($10,000); general education contract renegotiation ($569,296) and special education contract renegotiation ($110,704). The total overall reductions equal $891,223.
“Since we’ve been able to achieve reductions, it is my recommendation to the board that we take some of the money that has been saved and reinstate the proposal to buy the original recommendation for the allocation of vans (two buses and two vans overall)…so that’s $130,000 worth of restoration,” Feirsen said.
The board unanimously approved adoption of the budget and voted to restore one full-sized bus or two vans for a cost of $130,000; and to restore $180,000 to the Employee Retirement System reserve.
According to Feirsen, the adopted 2012-13 budget calls for no building closures, maintains class sizes, retains special programs such as FLES and Quest, maintains high school electives, retains full-day kindergarten/music, art and theater, does not change current bus transportation policy and preserves most co-curricular/athletics programs.
Residents have one last chance to make their voices heard at the budget hearing on Tuesday, May 8. Garden City residents will be asked to vote on the budget on Tuesday, May 15.
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
On May 8, more than 500 fashionably dressed women converged on the Garden City Hotel for the Sid Jacobson JCC’s tenth annual Friendship Circle Luncheon. Notable celebrities on hand were Good Day New York co-host Rosanna Scotto, who was also the event’s MC, and singer/actress Megan Hilty from the Broadway play Wicked and NBC’s hit drama Smash, who entertained the ladies with her favorite songs from both shows.
The Friendship Circle Luncheon was started 10 years ago by Denise Silverberg, as a way to raise money for programs providing support for adults in their 30s, 40 s and 50s that are afflicted by Alzheimer’s. Silverberg’s mother has the disease, so she understands firsthand the role of a caregiver and the stresses involved in taking care of someone who has it.
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
Deputy Mayor Nicholas Episcopia attended the HUB Stakeholders Meeting held by Nassau County’s consultants on the Transportation Project. He was joined by EPOA President Judy Courtney, Vice President Chris Mullaney, and Director Leo Stimmler, as well as William Bellmer, a member of the Garden City Planning Commission, Dorothy Episcopia, past EPOA president, and former mayor Robert Rothschild. Bob Schoelle and Brian Ridgeway attended the afternoon session. Garden City is a stakeholder because a large portion of the village lies within the defined HUB area.
As presented, the currently preferred alternative transportation plan appears reasonable and eliminates the construction of a light rail system that would run from the Mineola Station, south behind Arthur Street, and east along the spur adjacent to St. James Street South, as was initially proposed. Nonetheless, as we have consistently done over the years, we will continue to monitor plans for the transportation project and strongly express our opinion if we believe any aspect of this project would be detrimental to the quality of life in Garden City.
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00
The Garden City JV lacrosse team finished the year with a stellar 14-0-1 record. Led by Head Coach Tom Flatley and Assistant Coach Brett Hepworth, the Trojans overpowered most of their opponents with explosive offensive bursts, tough-nosed gritty defense, and rock-solid goaltending. The offense averaged over 15 goals per game, while the defense allowed just over three goals per game.
The season commenced with a hard fought, triple overtime thriller against Syosset that ended in a 7-7 tie. As the team became more cohesive, most of the next few opponents, including Hewlett, Lynbrook, Carey, Roslyn, Kellenberg, and others, found themselves overmatched against this Trojan team. However, that did not dissuade Ward Melville from putting forth an inspired effort on their home turf for three quarters, before finally falling to Garden City 12-7.
Thursday, 16 May 2013 00:00
The boys and girls high school teams are both rolling and have their sights set on a long run in the playoffs. Both team have faced a number of formidable opponents throughout the season and have successfully navigated their schedules. One thing that has been consistent for both teams has been that their defenses have had to stand tall at key times and shut down very active offenses. Both Coach Finnell and Coach Chapman have made sure that the non-league schedules of their teams will ensure that their teams are prepared for whatever the playoffs can throw at them.
After going the full season last year undefeated, the boys team has three blemishes on their record with losses to powerhouses Ward Melville, Manhasset and LaSalle of PA. With a 9-3 record the Trojans are looking to wrap up the number two seed in the playoffs to force a rematch of the Manhasset game in the County finals. The boys have excelled defensively only allowing 4.25 goals against per game. And if you remove those three tough losses the goals against average drops to 3.1.