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Will Budget Vote Make The Grade?

The school board meeting held May 9 began with well-attended student recognition in the Black Box Theater, then continued upstairs in the boardroom. No community members were present. Because the district is one of a handful in the area proposing to pierce the tax cap, the administration and school board hope residents visit the website to review the budget document. The district’s budget, the board and administration believe, is a paragon of transparency, although, it was said, not many hits were tracked viewing the budget.

At the April 17 board of education meeting, the Manhasset BOE voted unanimously to adopt the 2013-2014 budget. The 2012-2013 budget was $87,069,424 compared to the 2013-2014 budget of $89,296,198, an increase of $2,226,774 or a 2.56 percent budget-to-budget increase, resulting in a 5.98 percent tax levy increase.

The board of education approved final reductions to the preliminary working budget when it agreed to allocate $249,943 of reserves and fund balance to offset the tax levy. They also reduced $74,824 from line items in the budget, including chaperoning supervision, supply, and other budget codes. Previously, $1,712,551 had been reduced from staff reductions and line items, as well as through the board’s adoption of the Pension Contribution Stabilization Plan.

The Pension Contribution Stabilization plan is recently enacted state legislation that established a pension contribution stabilization program for municipalities and school districts, which provides predictability to these highly variable budget lines. The proposed budget reflects the board’s intention to participate and defer a portion of this year’s contribution. The primary benefit of participation is the elimination of the uncertainty of what pension contributions will be for the near term, enabling the district to better plan for the future.

The district’s allowable levy increase is only 0.15 percent, or $118,923. The administration explained at the school board meeting that when the district adopted the pension-smoothing plan, that reduced the allowable levy increase.

While Manhasset’s budget increase is lower than the Long Island average, it’s not below the state mandated cap of 0.15 percent, thus the district seeks to pierce the cap.

If a school district is within its allowable tax levy, a majority vote can pass the budget. If it exceeds the allowable tax levy, as Manhasset’s proposed budget does, a vote of at least 60 percent support is required.

The requirement of the super-majority disenfranchises those who vote for the budget. For example, if there are 1,000 voters, and 599 vote for the budget and 401 vote against, the budget fails and each “no” vote equals 1 1/2 “yes” votes.

If the budget does not pass on May 21, a 2nd vote will be held on June 18.

The budget vote and board member election will be held Tuesday, May 21, at the Manhasset Secondary School gymnasium from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Incumbent trustees Regina Rule and Craig Anderson are each running unopposed.

For additional information, call 516-267-7724, or visit the district’s website at www.manhasset.k12.ny.us and click on the link at the bottom right, “2013-14 Budget–Learn The Facts.”