Friday, 11 March 2011 00:00
(Submitted by the Manhasset Board of Education)
The 2011-2012 budget process began on Saturday, March 5 as Superintendent Charlie Cardillo and his administrative team gave members of the community a comprehensive look at the many difficult decisions that must be made before the Manhasset Board of Education adopts its budget. This year’s statewide annual Budget Vote and Board Election will be Tuesday, May 17. In an economic and political climate that is the most hostile in years for public education, Mr. Cardillo reviewed the unprecedented challenges facing school districts across New York State. These challenges include large increases in state mandated retirement contributions; a steep rise in health care contributions; the 2 percent tax levy cap which may be in effect for the 2012-13 school year; and state laws that severely limit the options available to boards of education and administrators to make fiscally responsible choices. The events unfolding in Ohio and Wisconsin are occurring in a different political environment than currently exists in New York State.
Before student needs are considered, Manhasset’s budget must include an increase of just over $1.5 million in contributions to the New York State Retirement System required by and determined by State law. These contributions translate to a budget to budget increase of 1.89 percent. Mr. Cardillo commented, “We have no control over pensions, yet it hits our students the hardest.” In addition, even though Manhasset’s teachers contribute 22 percent of the cost of their health care, health care contributions are increasing by just over $1 million, causing a further budget to budget increase of 1.25 percent. These two increases alone contribute to a budget to budget increase of 3.14 percent. Absent any meaningful State mandate and legislative reform, school districts across New York find their hands tied.
As Mr. Cardillo outlined in his reduced continuation budget and an array of proposed reductions in administration, staff, programming, athletics and equipment, he emphasized that the board and administration are committed to minimizing the impact on students. Given the extraordinary economic environment, he said, “Things must be done differently.” The detailed list of reductions is intended to be a starting point for conversations with the community and comprises “working documents which will change as our collective discussions ensue over the coming weeks” before the board adopts a proposed budget.
As a first step in the 2011-12 budget process, Mr. Cardillo and the administration developed a continuation budget which reflected everything necessary to continue the current Manhasset School District’s academic and co-curricular and operational programs into 2011-12. A continuation budget would result in a budget to budget increase over 2010-11 of 4.91 percent.
As a second step, the administrative team then made a number of adjustments targeted to have the least programmatic impact, which includes reductions to appropriations for innovative technology equipment purchases, certain facilities repairs and maintenance projects, and use of the Debt Service Fund to offset principal pay-downs on the district’s debt. These reductions bring the budget increase down by nearly 1 percent to 3.96 percent. Because the administration and the board recognize that further reductions are still required, Mr. Cardillo reviewed additional reductions, which include eliminating the assistant to superintendent position and collapsing three administrative positions into two; decreases in clerical and teaching assistant staff and reductions in non-classroom teaching positions and the elimination of certain elective course offerings. These further reductions allow core academic offerings for students to be protected and bring the budget increase down to 2.74 percent with a corresponding 3.14 percent tax levy increase.
As a third step, the administration presented for the board’s and the community’s consideration additional possible reductions which, while they would bring the budget down to the NYS 2011-12 contingency budget to budget increase of 1.92 percent, would severely impact opportunities available for students K-12. The array of possible reductions includes cuts to academic enrichment programs in the elementary and middle schools, cuts to middle school and JV athletic programs, and reductions in after school clubs across the district’s schools.
The written statement accompanying the draft budget documents states: “All of the items on this list of potential further reductions reflect valuable elements incorporated into our daily school life. However, in these economic times, even items of value must be further prioritized. The administration has extensively reviewed these reductions in the context of impact on each and every child and has determined that these items reflect the least harmful of available choices. We acknowledge that these recommendations will require that things must be done differently. However, we remain confident that the individual student will continue to reap the benefits of Manhasset’s outstanding academic and co-curricular programs.” The draft budget documents can be found on the district’s website www.manhasset.k12.ny.us.
Each possible reduction on the list was discussed at length by the board and the administration during the work session. Members of the community and MESPA staff in attendance were able to participate as well. The level of discussion demonstrated that extensive, thoughtful and careful consideration has been given by the administration to every possible impact of each reduction. The administration also had creative suggestions in some cases that could minimize the impact of these reductions on student learning.
The board will adopt a budget at its regular meeting on Thursday, April 14, for voter consideration on Tuesday, May 17. Prior to adoption, discussions on all options for reduction will remain fluid. Discussions are also taking place with the Manhasset Education Association, the teachers’ union, whose contract does not expire until June 30, 2012. Under State Law, the district is obligated to abide by the terms of the current contract until its expiry, although the district has asked the teachers to consider reopening their contract and to consider ‘givebacks.’ Ongoing talks between the district and the teachers are currently taking place.
The next budget hearing is scheduled for Thursday, March 17, at 8 p.m. at Shelter Rock Elementary School. Community input is strongly encouraged at this and other upcoming board meetings. It bears repeating, that the budget documents discussed Saturday are working documents that will serve as a starting point for ensuing budget discussions and will change as our collective discussions take place over the coming weeks. Feedback from the community is essential. Emails to the board are always welcome at boe@manhasset. k12.ny.us.
The Manhasset community together faces unprecedented pressures on public education. With the input and help of everyone, the district can face these challenges and continue to offer meaningful opportunities for students to succeed. Working together, Manhasset can ensure that our schools continue in the tradition of excellence for which they are known and respected.