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Levittown SD Budget Calls for 3.81 Percent Tax Levy Increase

Board Makes Cuts, Adopts Budget

At March 25 Meeting

The Levittown Board of Education adopted the proposed 2010/11 budget at a recent meeting, calling for a 3.81 percent tax levy increase.

At the March 25 board meeting Levittown Schools Superintendent Dr. Herman Sirois and Board President Dan Bornstein discussed a proposed 5.4 percent tax levy increase that Sirois said, ”We all agreed would not result in a passed budget.”

With the adopted budget going to voters on May 18 at the cost of $193,543,816, the board and Sirois went over the items, line by line, making cuts where they deemed necessary.

The board voted to make cuts to kindergarten aides, saving the district $14,000.

“I don’t see how $14,000, is going to do anything,” Board Trustee Mike Pappas said.

The board also voted to cut from the budget $35,000 from the struggling sports fitness program at GC Tech.

Enrollment in the two-year course has been low, a result of miscommunication, Pappas said.

Pappas said that’s why the enrollment numbers are so low, because students were told it wasn’t available.

However, Sirois clarified and said the students who elected to enroll in this class weren’t told the class was not going to be offered but rather were asked to select a second class to replace the sports fitness class, if need be.

“The bottom line is we don’t have enough students and we’re not going to get it for next year,” Sirois said.

Juniors who are currently enrolled in the first year of the course this year will have the opportunity to take the second year of the course next year. The first year of the course will not be offered next year.

Among the major cuts that will save the district money is $585,000 from the special education budget, $85,000 of which comes from curtailing out-of-district enrollment in the program.

The district is not taking in any new students and they are combining two classes with low enrollment and bringing that one class to a proper level of enrollment, Dan Bornstein, president of the board of education, told the Tribune.

The remaining $500,000 comes from throughout the district in the form of efficiency changes and savings, Bornstein said.

The district is adding a swim team, at a cost of $45,000, and Athletic Director Keith Snyder will have to re-work the athletic budget to come up with those funds, as the athletic budget is not getting any additional money for the team, Bornstein said.

Snyder said he doesn’t want to eliminate any seventh-grade teams and hopes to squeeze some money out of the supervision budget.

“I think we can float the swim team without inflating the budget,” Snyder said at the meeting.

Another cut the board voted to make was to some funding for the enrichment program. The district will see $98,000 in savings by phasing out the enrichment program at the two middle schools.

In support of this decision Debbie Rifkin, assistant superintendent for the Department of Instruction, said there are more alternatives to the program at the middle school level than at the elementary school level.

John Zampaglione, principal of Jonas Salk Middle School and John Avena, principal of Wisdom Lane Middle School told the board that the enrichment alternatives in their schools include computer, movie making and science clubs that although won’t be the same as the courses, will be comparative. The honors program, research program, LEGO club and science Olympiad program are available to those enrichment program students who will not have enrichment classes under this budget.

A very well spoken sixth-grader from Wisdom Lane approached the board to address cutting the enrichment program.

He said he heard from his teacher that the enrichment program would be cancelled, so he went to his peers in the lunchroom and got 85 signatures on a petition to maintain the program.

“That’s in one day, imagine what I could do in a week,” he said, to laughter and applause from the audience.

The board voted to cut the $98,000 from the enrichment program.

Addressing the board’s direction that he suggests more cuts, Sirois said he approached unions in the district, asking them to alleviate the district of its contractual obligations to pay increases. The teachers are due a 3.5 percent increase next year and Sirois said he is going to sit down with the unions and discuss the possibilities.

“I would urge that we don’t close the door on that,” he said.

Teachers’ unions in Port Washington and Roslyn school districts recently agreed to forgo their scheduled raises. Island Trees School District Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy also said recently that he is working with the teachers’ union in that district to forgo their raise as well.

The proposed budget with a 3.81 percent tax levy increase is a result of using $2.5 million from the reserves fund, $9.7 million from the fund balance carried over to this year’s budget and an additional $850,000 in cuts yet to be announced.

Sirois said that 10 additional teachers may be cut to make up the required savings.

Bornstein explained that Sirois is taking the average teaching salary of $85,000 when looking at the numbers, but if senior teachers retire with salaries over $100,000, that is going to shift the numbers and fewer cuts would have to be made.

“We reduced the budget by a dollar amount,” Borntein explained. It’s up to Sirois to recommend how to effectively budget those funds.