Written by Dave Gil de Rubio, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 08 March 2013 00:00
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.
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.