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Proposed School Budget Is Under Tax Cap

Declining enrollment and

reserve funds are key factors

As voters in the Massapequa Union Free School District approach the Tuesday, May 21, budget vote, the proposed spending plan retains popular educational programs while keeping the rise in spending to 1.49 percent.

Despite what district officials call unprecedented increases in state-mandated employer pension contributions, as well as rising health insurance costs, the overall budget is up just over $2.7 million.

A decline in student enrollment, along with drawing down reserve funds, have, for Massapequa, mitigated what for some other Long Island school districts has been a year of budget-busting cost increases.

In a review of the proposed budget and other documents on the district’s website (www.msd.k12.ny.us), the Massapequa Observer found that over the past three years, student enrollment has declined by more than nine percent.

In the 2009-10 school year, the district enrolled 8,132 students. For 2013-14, enrollment is projected to be 7,400. In addition, 300 students were displaced by Superstorm Sandy, and their enrollment status in the district remains unknown. Declining enrollment has led to proposed personnel cuts that include 35 teaching positions, as well as support staff ranging from teaching assistants to clerical workers. Three administrator positions are among those on the chopping block. The school board estimates savings of more than $4.8 million, and says that class size will not increase.

The proposed 2013-14 budget is $185,809,139 versus a 2012-13 budget of $183,073,234, an increase of $2,735,905. The 2011-12 actual was $180,777,581. The budget represents a 1.49 percent spending increase and a tax levy increase of 3.19 percent over last year.

District officials project drawing down the reserve fund by $1.6 million in 2013-14. The district has made similar moves in recent years.

As the Annual Auditors Reports from 2010-2012 show, in recent years (and most likely in the year ahead, too), the district has tapped reserves:

District Reserves
                             Change              Balance

June 30, 2009:                           $24,159,966

June 30, 2010: $10,123,789    $34,283,755

June 30, 2011: ($1,062,489)    $33,221,266

June 30, 2012: ($5,304,616)    $27,916,650

In other words, the tax levy increase has been limited, at least to some degree, by using the reserve funds. The lion’s share of the budget-balancing, however, is due to fewer students in the district.