Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 11 March 2011 00:00
The Glen Cove Board of Education met this week at Robert M. Finley Middle School in Glen Cove to discuss the budget for the 2011-12 school year. This was the first of several budget review workshops scheduled over the course of the next four weeks before the board will adopt a budget on April 11.
The board appointed Dr. Joseph A. Laria, who has been interim superintendent for this school year, to the permanent status as superintendent of schools. The appointment was announced at last week’s meeting and made official on Monday night.
Last fall, Dr. Laria created a list of guidelines pertaining to the budget development indicating it should be viewed as a master plan for the year’s educational program and be seen as a device for carrying out that plan. As has been said at past meetings, there will be no “sacred cows” while analyzing all aspects of the district’s instructional and support operations, Dr. Laria said, and it is important to “balance educational soundness with fiscal economy,” as well as to separate needs from wants during the creation of the budget.
The final guideline says to “remember the larger context” to see our district’s economy as part of the global economy, and to remember that the economy changes during the planning process.
Each week a new category will be discussed in detail; the first budget review covered the general support category, which includes salaries, health insurance and other benefits and expenses the district is obligated to pay.
The working budget for the current school year is $70,382,381; a rollover budget would amount to $75,347,913, which would mean a 7.5 percent budget-to-budget increase, and 9.14 percent tax levy increase. These numbers are not a realistic option for the district. Therefore, approximately $3.6 million would need to be cut from the budget to come up with a 3 percent tax levy, and a little more than $3 million would have to be cut for a 4 percent tax levy increase. If next year’s budget were to go on contingency, $4.2 million would have to be cut from the budget.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Kevin Wurtz went over the budget items, explaining any changes that may be anticipated for next year. Some of the largest anticipated increases will come from the New York State Employee Retirement System and the cost of health insurance.
A resident asked if it was possible to shop around for other insurance companies to find a better rate and save money.
“No, we must offer the state plans,” Mr. Wurtz replied. The two plans offered are Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield and HIP.
The new proposed budget includes money for new bathrooms at the high school; Gail Nedbor-Gross, vice president of the school board, said she thought that the project had been postponed for the time being. She also asked why $22,000 is budgeted for teacher recruiting advertisements when only $2,600 had been spent this year.
“The numbers are subject to change; an ad in the NY Times can cost $10,000. These are the numbers that have worked for us in the past, but they can be higher or lower if the board desires,” Mr. Wurtz said. “This is a working document; I don’t want to leave anything off the plate. If the board wants to make any changes, that is their pleasure to do so.”
Dr. Laria also stressed the fact that the budget is an estimate, working on a 16-month timeline. He said the responsible thing to do is to over estimate expenditures and underestimate revenues, within reason, or else the result could be a deficit.
“We are deliberately building a fund balance, within reason, so we are in the black and not the red, and we will be using part of that reserve to stabilize the tax rate,” he said.
He said the goal is to “zoom in” and look at each category of the budget to determine where cuts might be possible.
“The bottom line is that we have not found anything yet in the general support area where tremendous cuts can happen,” Dr. Laria said.
Next week, finance, pupil transportation and the plant and facilities will be discussed on Monday, followed by instruction, administration, technology, library and media at Wednesday’s workshop. The times and dates of each budget review workshop are listed on the district’s website.