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Fasten Your Seatbelts for the 2011-12 School Budget

Pension Costs Alone Would Catapult the

District Over the Tax Cap

All agreed, at the school board meeting Dec. 16, that there will be difficult times following the Christmas break. The district had already begun paring its budget and now, with the tax cap proposed by Governor elect Cuomo, especially with Sheldon Silver purported to be on board, a brutal budget process awaits. Pension increases get the district above that number already, said Deputy Superintendent for Business and Finance Rosemary Johnson, adding, “We won’t choose our budget number, it will be set for us.”

According to the New York State School Board Association “a tax cap of 2 percent or the rate of inflation – whichever is less – would limit property tax increases in school districts to an average of $229 million per year over the next four years. At the same time, school districts could have a projected average annual increase of more than $1 billion in salaries, health insurance, and employee pension contributions. That would leave school districts with an average shortfall of $815 million each year just in meeting these basic personnel costs.” NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer said “… a hard tax cap would clearly threaten the quality of public education by forcing drastic cuts in classroom teachers and academic programs.”

“No good deed goes unpunished,” Johnson said, in reference to how, in Manhasset, there has already been enormous tightening in the budget. Johnson claimed other districts have back up but “we’ve been fiscally tight the last few years.”

Dr. William Shine used the word “dire” and others agreed the 2011-12 budget will be a formidable task.

One of the first items of business at the school board meeting Dec. 16 was acceptance of the gift of 30 tickets to the Big Apple Circus, courtesy of Manhasset SEPTA. Lucky students in the school district will be attending a special performance of the Big Apple Circus, the Circus of the Senses which is created for children with physical and developmental disabilities. The tickets are for Jan. 5, 2011 and have an approximate value of $750.

A second gift, that from Backstage, the Manhasset Theatre Parents Association, was of a new Cyclorama in the approximate value of $1,010. According to Wikipedia a cyclorama is a large curtain or wall, often concave, positioned at the back of the stage area.

Before the first reading of the Board of Education Bylaws it was stated the primary function of the board is to develop policies, which govern the schools. And it was noted all policies and bylaws adopted must conform to and are subordinate to statuary law.

Under the ongoing School Board Policy Review the board spent well over an hour on the first reading of the Board of Education Bylaws. The district had none, has collected samples from other schools for use as a template, and stated one goal is to encourage more public participation. Section 5: Guidelines for Public Participation at Board Meetings, included advance notice of agenda topics, requests in writing from the public of items for discussion on that agenda, and amount of time allotted for discussion. At the actual meeting, to speak during Open Time, an individual would have the option of filling out a card with his question and handing it to the district clerk rather than speaking from the floor. Formulating the bylaws for the district has been a time-consuming task. There will be two additional readings of the document. Additionlly, Policy Committee meetings are held every Friday with board members Pat Aitken, Regina Rule and Cindy Cardinal present.

Student representative, Jennifer Aitken, said the Student Senate is examining the student code of conduct, including cyberbullying. She also said the students were discussing the possibility of car pooling to alleviate traffic congestion.