Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 25 March 2011 00:00
The season for budget discussions is upon us and these talks are well under way in Glen Cove schools. A large number of parents, students, faculty and community members came to show support at the Glen Cove Board of Education meeting held Monday night at Robert M. Finley Middle School in response to a list sent out to parents of potential items that could be cut from next year’s budget. Vice President Gail Nedbor-Gross was absent from the meeting.
“We have had four budget meeting workshops so far this year and the board is required to adopt a budget by April 11,” Superintendent Dr. Joseph A. Laria said. “Cuts in the range of $3 million to $3.6 million have to be made; in the worst case scenario, we will have to cut $4.2 million.”
He then explained what the potential taxes would mean to homeowners in a dollar amount. Currently, the board is trying to come up with a budget at a tax rate of 4 percent, which Dr. Laria said would amount to a “very minimal” increase from the current year. He said the average tax is $10.38 per $1,000 of assessed home value, and a 4 percent tax rate would bring it to $10.80. If the budget does not pass and goes on contingency, the tax would be $10.59. While a tax rate of less than 2 percent may sound appealing to taxpayers, it only amounts to a difference of “about ten bucks” on the assessed value, according to Dr. Laria.
During the public comment period, several people inquired about the lists they received of items that could be cut and wondered if there was a more detailed list. The girls’ varsity tennis team was among the audience members worried about the cuts and asking for more information.
Board President Ida McQuair replied that the board had not yet discussed those items but wanted to make sure the public was informed.
“I invite you to come to the next budget workshop to get more information; unfortunately, we do have to make more cuts,” she said.
Dr. Laria explained that the purpose of the lists – which he created – is to provide a point of reference for discussion on two main points: the financial impact and the program impact of each item. He said the list is not prioritized, but was created to give a sense of direction on the impacts of cuts for the next school year and the years to come.
“History has shown us that our community will not support a tax rate higher than 4 percent…we are nervous. We don’t want to see any programs cut but the fact is we have to make them, and we have horrible voter turnout, making a contingency budget a real possibility. But believe me, we have everybody’s interest in mind,” Ms. McQuair said.
At the start of the meeting, the board recognized two students for their outstanding academic achievements, and presented each with a certificate. Paul Ferrante, a junior at Glen Cove High School, has been offered an internship sponsored by the American Society of the Italian Legions of Merit. He is commended for being the first student chosen for a pilot internship aimed at establishing and encouraging cultural clubs in high schools.
Esteban Maraboli, a high school senior, was honored for being selected to participate in the annual New York State Assembly and Senate Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute. He is one of only 12 Nassau County high school students invited to participate, based on his academic performance and possession of leadership qualities.
In other business, the board approved an application for the third payment to QC Mechanical for work completed to date on the high school kitchen exhaust hood/fire suppression system in the amount of $14,630. The second payment for toilet reconstruction at the high school, in the amount of $3,823.75 to Palace Electric Contractors was also approved, as well as the final payment to Vezandio Contracting for completed work on the high school bathroom reconstruction, in the amount of $5,885.
Additionally, the board gave approval for the installation of playgrounds at Landing and Gribbin Elementary Schools. Dr. Laria explained that the Board had received notification of a grant for these projects in the amount of $100,000, which would be on the agenda at the next meeting. He said they needed board approval to get the projects rolling.
“Do we maybe have the money or do we definitely have the money?” Trustee Joel Sunshine inquired before voting on the item.
“We definitely have the money,” said Dr. Laria.
During public comment, a parent asked whether or not a Mandarin Chinese course would be offered for seventh-graders next year, since she did not see it in her child’s course offerings catalog.
Dr. Laria answered that the course would not be offered in seventh-grade due to low enrollment, but any students who had already begun the program would continue to have the course offered.
Trustee Sunshine said, “This is an example of an issue I’ve had for awhile; by the time an item gets to the board’s attention, it’s already been cut. Students should be encouraged to learn Mandarin Chinese; these types of issues should be discussed by the board.”
“We are staying within the guidelines approved by the board – nothing is being cut at whim,” Dr. Laria said.
“By the time something gets approved, it’s a done deal. This has been going on for years and it goes on in other districts,” Mr. Sunshine said. “You said the board will know about it before we cut it – we don’t.”
“I don’t want to get into debate with Trustee Sunshine,” Dr. Laria said. “And I have nothing against Mandarin Chinese. I don’t want to cut anything but in these financial times we have to do the responsible thing.”