Written by Michael Scro and Rich Forestano Friday, 18 April 2014 00:00
The Levittown Board of Education unanimously adopted a $198.7 million spending plan for the 2014-2015 school year, which comes with a proposed tax levy increase of 1.62 percent. This represents a $2.1 million increase from last year, for a proposed levy of $133.2 million.
The Levittown school district will receive $49,163,299 in state aid for the 2014-2015 school year, which increased by $690,049 from last year’s budget. The other revenues also show an increase of $684,250 from last year.
In the past seven years, the district received its largest percentage of state aid in 2008-2009 with 30 percent. According to Assistant Superintendent Bill Pastore, state aid has decreased since then, leveling off for the past few years and coming in at slightly below 25 percent for 2014-15.
The primary source of revenue for the district is the tax levy and state aid while fund balance and reserves and other revenues contribute the least. Pastore presented a five-year budget projection, which he described as “critically important to the health of our district.”
Where Pastore displayed “surplus deficit spending,” it projected a proposed -$6,447,238 for 2014-2015 to increase to -$7,932,215 by 2018-2019.
“This is important to note because it means we’re using fund balance to finance some of our expenditures,” Pastore said. “We have to be careful and vigilant in using these projections to look forward and make sure we don’t get ourselves in a position where we’ve overspent the budget and have to make reductions we may not want to make.”
Although the district proposes a fund balance of $30,009,782 for the 2014-2015 school year, it projects that it will fall in the red, dropping to an anticipated fund balance of -$260,485 by the 2018-2019 school year.
“We’re going to have to face some tough decisions, and it's going to be a challenge as budgets move forward,” Levittown Schools Superintendent Dr. James Grossane said. “Eventually, its going to affect programs... that goes without saying.”
Grossane suggested taking advantage of the fact that the district has two high schools—Division Avenue and MacArthur—by looking into magnet and PILOT programs to help ensure the district can maintain enrollment.
As an example, Grossane mentioned that as of next year, AP Chemistry will be run exclusively out of Division Avenue High School, which will require MacArthur students go there to take it.
“That is a combination of what Governor Cuomo has saddled every district in this state with,” said School Board Secretary Ed Powers. “There is nothing more poignant than this five year projection slide... take this information, show it to your friends and neighbors, and call Albany.”
School Board Vice President Peggy Marenghi said that given what is going on in the state, she predicts that half of all school district will hit a brick wall before Levittown does. “That is going to force the hand of Albany to do something in the next five years,” she said.
During the presentation, Pastore went back to 2006-2007—before the tax cap was implemented—showing the district had a tax levy increase of 3.96 percent, and a budget-to-budget increase of 3.93 percent. “Our tax levy is limited, and therefore, that drives our budget, which is a limited,” Pastore said.
The major components of the district’s spending plan for 2014-15 includes a $876,953 increase in salaries, a $1,081,540 increase in BOCES services for the special education department, and $1,743,500 in employee benefits. Reductions include a $836,914 decrease in contractual services and $208,839 decrease in tuition and training in the special education department. According to Pastore, refinancing bonds from last year also contributed to a $168,631 decrease in debt service.
Copies of the proposed 2014-2015 school budget will be made available by the district 14 days before voters will go to the polls on May 20.
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 00:00
U.S. Air Force Veteran Mario Dell’aera, 80, of Levittown said he first volunteered for service in 1952, during the Korean War.
“They called volunteers ‘regulars,’” he said, reflecting back to when he first enlisted.
From 1952-1956, Dell’era called the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev. home. The base, he said, operated 24 hours, 7 days a week, training pilots to fly overseas into Korea.
Saturday, 26 July 2014 00:00
A clown named Renaldo performed magic tricks for an enthusiastic audience as part of the National Circus Project, which visited Levittown Public Library on Wednesday, July 16.
All 150 tickets available for the performance were sold out in this interactive magic show for children. Throughout the entire circus act, children laughed and raised their hands as high as they could to be chosen as one of Renaldo’s helpers.
Raising her hand to participate was three-year-old Kirsten Cantwell from Seaford. “She was upset that she didn’t get picked,” said her mother Melissa Cantwell.
Kirsten Cantwell goes to any activity offered at the library, and is starting to enjoy watching magic shows. According to her mother, she really enjoyed the performance.
In the circus show, National Circus Project performer, Al Calienes, acted as Renaldo the clown.
“The show has different components of acts in the circus,” explained Calienes. “We teach children circus moves.”
With the National Circus Project, children get to see magic tricks performed live. “We infuse enthusiasm by showing them, and they in turn will be able to repeat the process,” said Calienes.
Renaldo performed plate spinning, where he spun a plate on a stick and passed it along to the stick of one of his helpers from the audience, who then passed the plate down a line of three more helpers. This interactive way of teaching the children magic tricks really allows them to absorb what they are learning.
The National Circus Project travels and performs for elementary schools, as well as middle and high schools. When the National Circus Project is not going to schools, they perform at library shows, summer camps, and other types of events.
The performance entertains the adults as well as the children. “We involve everybody,” said Calienes. “Everybody’s engaged on some level or another. “
At every library performance, Calienes donates the children’s book he wrote and illustrated Renaldo Joins the Circus to the library. He feels that he owes a lot to the library system. “Anything that ever meant anything to me I learned in the library,” said Calienes.
Calienes learned how to draw from the library, which is how he became a commercial artist. One of the main characters he would always draw would be Renaldo the clown. “I wanted to make him real so I joined the circus,” he said.
Calienes has been performing with the National Circus Project for seven years and has been in the circus business going on 26 years.
The National Circus Project brings magic to children at any school, camp or library all over Long Island as well as across the country.
Thursday, 24 July 2014 00:00
Levittown’s Division Avenue High School varsity baseball team, under the direction of coach Tom Tuttle, won the Class A County Championship, garnering a third-place ranking in New York State. This is the team’s 13th county championship win and the second county championship for the school in the past four years.
In addition, senior Chris Reilly was named Championship MVP for throwing a complete game shutout in game two and going three for four with two RBIs.
Thursday, 24 July 2014 00:00
Taylor Traenkle, a junior at Division Avenue High School recently received the MVP award for the Nassau County Varsity Hockey League Association.
Traenkle, who plays no. 9 for the Levittown Ice Falcons, led the way averaging 2.8 points a game with a total of 25 goals and 23 assists in just 17 games.