The Manhasset School District is at a historical crossroad. The 2004-2005 budget process has been one of the most difficult in recent memory. As a community and a district we are in an extremely uncomfortable position: we are faced with hard economic realities, yet we want to maintain the excellent standards of education for which our District is known. Members of the CAC for Finance feel that Manhasset School District needs changes in its fiscal culture. In response to a charge from the board, the committee completed studies and delivered three reports: Per Pupil Costs, Long Range Planning and the MEA Contract to the board of education that shed fresh light on issues facing the District. The committee supports further progress in embracing these fiscal and cultural changes.
During the last two months the CAC for Finance has communicated with the Board and Administration, outlining suggestions for further fiscal efficiencies and offering recommendations. Given that the district still faces many hurdles: increasing enrollment, the teachers' (MEA) contract negotiation, and the need for expansion and upgrading of the facilities, the committee feels that continued fiscal restraint and greater efficiency is mandatory.
The Citizens' Advisory Committee for Finance is a committee of local residents, appointed by the Board of Education, who are broadly representative of community interests, attitudes and backgrounds. After much deliberation, a majority of the committee believes the 2004-2005 school budget with the proposed increase of 5.87 percent merits the community's support.
However with the endorsement of this budget, the committee has several recommendations:
The BOE and the administration should not look at this year's budget in isolation, but as a component of a larger and longer-range picture. Only in this manner will future budgets be better able to be managed and controlled. As we move forward, the District needs to keep its budgets in check and begin to exert control over the costs therein, while maintaining first rate educational standards.
Manhasset needs to be in control of its cost structure. A rotational in-depth cost and operational review of all areas must become an annual exercise if we aim to deliver services more efficiently, and to insure that we incur only those expenditures that are deemed absolutely necessary. The areas reviewed should include: Personnel, Transportation, Maintenance and Operation, Technology, Administrative Overhead, Special Education, Educational Programming and BOCES costs.
Zero based budgeting should be employed in developing the budget, and budgets showing programs and staffing should be developed for each of the District's buildings.
The administration and the board of education must address the costs associated with all contractual agreements. Economic realities require restructuring of employment contracts to result in increased productivity district wide, greater control of total employee compensation and a greater sharing of health care costs. The outcome of future contract negotiations will have a profound and long term impact on the fiscal health of the District.
The BOE should incorporate long range planning into the annual budget process. Using a five year financial plan is critical to the planning process, and when used in conjunction with a capital improvement and strategic plan, such plans would provide the foundation for a sound budgetary process.
The district needs to hire a permanent Business Manager.
In addition to the budget there will be several other proposals on the ballot. The committee has not been charged nor has it reviewed the merits of these proposals. Therefore we express no opinion on any ballot initiatives.
Our schools are the centerpiece of our community. Accordingly, a majority of the members of the CAC for Finance endorse the proposed 2004-2005 budget.
Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Finance
Larry Belinsky, Chairperson