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Busing And The School Budget

Transportation expenses raise

questions at review session

On Tuesday, Feb. 26 the Garden City Board of Education held its second meeting in the budget review process. This particular presentation focused on the non-instructional components for 2013-14. The proposed overall budget is $107,930,252 that is part of the budget-to-budget increase of 3.56 percent; which results in a projected tax levy increase (with STAR) of 3.86 percent against a maximum allowable tax levy of 3.91 percent.

There are three key drivers primarily responsible for increasing the size of the budget. The first are pension cost hikes that increased from 12.3 percent to 16.5 percent for teachers and administrators and 18.9 percent to 20.9 percent for all other employees. Then there is debt service—payments for bonds approved by the community in 1998, 2005 and 2009. The good news here is that debt service is slated to decline beginning in 2015. Most onerous is the tax certioraris, which found Nassau County shifting responsibility for paying in errors in the county’s assessments to schools districts. Along with covering the cost of these incorrect assessments, there are other expenditures involved as well. Coupled with pension cost hikes, the other state-mandated cost, it adds up to large amount for the district to cover according to Dr. Robert Feirsen, the evening’s first presenter and the school district superintendent.

“In addition to the fees from the tax certioraris are the actual awards to various entities who are over-assessed. There are going to be legal feels associated with this because we have to be represented at the table, when those negotiations take place or when it goes to court. So this is a significant expenditure facing the school district,” he explained adding. “Pension and tax certiorari alone would create a 3.76 percent tax increase. Remember, out tax levy limit is 3.91 percent.” (At the time of the meeting, the ruling from the state appeals court decision rejecting Nassau County’s attempt to shift these property tax refunds to school districts had not yet been rendered.)

The other flashpoint that begged questions from both the board of education and residents was the proposed $4,339,724 slated for transportation costs that include salaries, private contract costs, supplies and materials. This number caught the attention of Board of Education vice president Barbara Trapasso who despite declaring support for the bus drivers and for the district owning its own transportation system raised the question of possibly farming out the work. This issue, which has come during budget work sessions in prior years was addressed by both the superintendent and Albert Chase, the assistant superintendent for business and finance.

“[Owning our own bus fleet] is something that makes our community unique in a lot of ways. A lot of districts don’t own their transportation and a lot of people don’t know the drivers. A lot of our drivers sort of become like family,” Dr. Feirsen noted. “I also recall an incident from a few years ago that required us to evacuate the building. Where do those kids go? You can’t keep them on site. We were able to get our buses here in minutes. The other thing to keep in mind is that field of private transportation operators has shrunk dramatically over the course of the years. It’s like the competition with the airlines—fewer airlines means you don’t get the price breaks. The same thing is happening in private transportation.”

“Our proposed budget for next year is $4.3 million. Seven and a quarter of that is for contractual services that will continue and would be there either way,” Chase explained. “If we deducted that off the top, we’re looking at $3.5 million. I know just as a rough number, it’s at least $60,000 to contract for a bus just for four hours of service, meaning morning and back again in the evening. So $60,000 at a minimum and I believe we have 52 routes, that would be $3 million right there. The other service the staff provides as well is doing lunch monitor duty and various other tasks during the time they’re not driving the bus. So that would have to be taken up by somebody else. There may be more expense in terms of owning our own [bus fleet], but it’s not a tremendous number and that doesn’t include that if we went to a contracted situation, we’d have to contract every time we had an athletic or field trip.”

The decision was also voted on to use the subsequent budget work session on March 5 to discuss what monetary reserves the board of education has in the interest of providing transparency to the public. This would end up pushing a review of the instructional components of the budget to Tuesday, March 19 and Wednesday, April 10.

The next budget work session will be held on Tuesday, March 19.

News

North Shore-LIJ’s Cushing Neuroscience Institute (CNI) recently announced that Garden City resident Richard E. Temes, MD, MS, has been appointed director of the Center for Neurocritical Care at North Shore University Hospital and assistant professor of neurology, neurological surgery and internal medicine at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.

“Dr. Temes is a nationally recognized leader in neurocritical care and we are delighted to have him on board to spearhead our efforts in further expanding the neurocritical care services program,” said Raj K. Narayan, MD, chair of neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center and CNI’s director. For the past seven years, Dr. Temes served as director of the neurocritical care program he founded at Rush Medical Center in Chicago, Ill. He also served as the hospital’s medical director of the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit and as director of the Therapeutic Hypothermia Service. Under Dr. Temes’ leadership, he established Rush’s neurological emergencies transfer center, which grew to transfer 1,200 patients annually from over 30 institutions throughout southern Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and western Michigan.

‘Landscape-altering’ bug creeping north

It’s a cute little ‘bug.’ What it represents, however, is anything but cute.

An unusual-looking Volkswagen is toodling around Long Island this month. Painted to resemble the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), the VW Beetle is part of efforts by the US Department of Agriculture to eliminate the pest, which can destroy 70 percent of an area’s tree canopy, according to the agency. Initially, officials held hope for complete eradication from about 23 square miles of the Island designated as infested or at risk by 2016. Instead, this “landcape-altering pest” is spreading.


Sports

Garden City falls to Brentwood

after beating Farmingdale

The Farmingdale Baseball League recently capped off its fourth annual 9/11 baseball tournament with a series of championship games, to ultimately determine which Long Island town reigns supreme. On Aug. 16, teams from 8U to 14U fought tooth and nail for the ultimate prize.

One of the most exciting games was the evening 14U championship match-up between the Garden City Warriors and Brentwood Braves.

Fall Roller Hockey Programs Announced

The Garden City Recreation and Parks Department will once again offer various roller hockey programs this fall for both youth & adults who reside in the Inc. Village of Garden City. Whether you played in the past or looking to get involved, there is no better time to sign up and experience all the fun. All programs take place at the roller rink located at Community Park. Please note at this time, the recreation department is just announcing its programs. Fees and registration information will be announced at a later date.

This season, the roller hockey programs are broken down into grades. Please pay careful attention as grades and dates/times have changed:


Calendar

Alice in Nanoland

Thursday, August 28

Nature’s Nighttime Noises

Saturday, August 30

Art With A French Twist

Thursday, September 11



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com