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Levittown Budget Adoption Postponed Again

The Levittown Board of Education originally planned to adopt the 2011-12 school district budget on Wednesday, April 6, but instead used the date as a planning session to review further additional expenditure reductions.

After several months of heavy deliberations, the board is now prepared to adopt the finalized version of the budget on Wednesday, April 13 or the following week. Since the event was a planning session and not a hearing, no portion of the meeting was set aside for public comments.

The board was projecting $4.3 million in expenditure reductions as recently as March 18, but found that an additional $8.5 million could be saved. A total of $12.8 million in cuts are expected to be phased in over the next five years, which prevents what would have been double-digit tax increases.

“$12 million is the gap,” said Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Herman Sirois. “It’s a large amount of money and a lot to bite off at once, but that’s it. Once that is done, it’s done. It only has to happen once.”

Board of Education President Michael Pappas added, “There’s a misperception out in the public that they’re cutting this year, and they will cut again next year. We’re getting the tooth pulled. What we’re doing is to right the ship this year with recurring expenditure reductions. There are no plans for additional reductions.”

As of Wednesday, March 30, budget projections include tax increases of 3.6 percent for the 2011-12 school year, 5.5 percent in 2012-13 and 5.5 percent in 2013-14.

State aid projections have been altered to: 2011-12 ($47.0M), 2012-13 ($49.1M), 2013-14 ($51.0M) and 2014-15 ($53.0M).

“These projections are probably as accurate as we can possibly get,” said Sirois. “A lot of people tell us that we can’t make projections five years in advance, but we’ve always been successful in doing so. It’s like a curveball. If you see it coming ahead of time, you change your stance a little bit and that is what this is about.”

The board expects to have a fund balance of: 2011-12 ($6.7M), 2012-13 ($8.1M), 2013-14 ($7.9M), 2014-15 ($5.4M) and 2015-16 ($2.5M). The fund balance is pool of surplus monies maintained by the district in case of unexpected emergencies or special areas of concern.

Sirois went on to review a spreadsheet of the areas which would bring savings, including increased class sizes, staggered school hours and cuts to vocational education positions and maintenance supplies.

Board of Education Trustee Edward Powers spoke on the importance of saving jobs while reducing expenditures in non-personnel areas. “If my choices are crayons or people, I’ll err on the side of not having enough crayons,” said Powers. “I have people in buildings who are saying that they don’t need some of the stuff there.”

When looking at the proposed budget, Board of Education Vice President Peter Porrazzo pointed out there is at least $1 million that can still be cut out, such as surplus money allotted for supplies.

Secretary Kevin Regan (vacation) and Trustee James Moran (family emergency) were given excused absences from the session.

“The district will run and eventually adjust to the cuts that need to be made,” Sirois said. “However, they will not go unnoticed.”

The next regular Levittown School District Board of Education meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 10 at the Levittown Memorial Education Center (LMEC) at 150 Abbey Lane. The public session begins at 7:30 p.m. This meeting will be devoted to reports from the superintendent of schools and board members, regular agenda items of old and new business and schedules.

Additionally, the district will hold a special meeting for the BOCES vote and planning session on Wednesday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the LMEC.

Copies of the agenda are available to the residents of the district at the office of the Board of Education three days prior to the meeting date. Copies of agendas are also available three days prior to meeting date at the Levittown Public Library. Tapes of meetings are available at the Levittown Public Library.