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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

Ever since the Garden City School District passed a $36.8 million School Investment Bond back in 2009, the upgrades throughout the district have been quite substantial. And while most of it has gone towards infrastructure, external visible improvements have rightfully been a source of pride for the board, which has taken to conducting tours at the different schools preceding the monthly public meetings that are normally held at Garden City High School. On the night of the school board meeting held on Tuesday, Oct. 14  at the Homestead Building, the school board, administration and Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen went on a guided tour of the building by Homestead Principal Dr. Suzanne Viscovich.

Feirsen described the tour as a new tradition started last year where administration travels around each of the district’s school buildings in the Fall to observe its current offerings and recent upgrades.

In an earlier column, Mayor John Watras shared some helpful tips on how to secure your property in preparation for a hurricane. The following are additional recommendations on what you can do now to be prepared in the event that a major storm hits Long Island.

As the storm approaches, customers should take the following steps to prepare for the arrival of either a hurricane or tropical storm:


Sports

Reminder

With the fall sports season upon us, the department of recreation and parks would like to remind all residents that pets are not allowed in any neighborhood parks, Community Park, or St. Paul’s fields. Non compliance with this rule will result in the issuance of appearance tickets.

Register For The Online Registration Option

Garden City’s Department of Recreation and Parks will offer the option of online registration with credit card payment beginning with its winter programs in early December.

In order for a family to use the online registration option, the family will first need to visit the recreation and parks office at 108 Rockaway Ave. to verify residency and their family information and receive their password.  A list of instructions as to how to use the website will be included.

Stretching tips for the high school athlete

Prior to the start of high school running season, Garden City’s Physical Therapy Options (PTO) had an opportunity to provide a presentation to members of Sacred Heart Academy’s cross country team. Team members gathered at Garden City’s New York Running Company to learn strategies and tips for a successful fall season.

PTO staff members Dr. Meghan Goetz, Doctor of Physical Therapy, and PTO Aide Mike Murphy discussed the importance of stretching to prevent injury and provided strategies and tips for success for the high school runner.


Calendar

Garden City High School Homecoming

Saturday, October 25

Marvelous Movie Matinée

Monday, October 27

A Map Of Artistic Inspiration

Saturday, November 1



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