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Mineola School District administrators presented the first draft of the 2009-2010 school budget to the board of education Thursday evening. The administrators feel they can put a fiscally responsible budget before the public for a vote in May, but the 2010-2011 budget will probably require difficult decisions from the board of education.

In school districts across Long Island, boards of education are trying to put forth budgets that voters will pass in a difficult economic climate. While residents may not be able to afford the tax increases they have in the past, what further complicates matters for school districts is the shortfall in revenue that comes in the form of state aid. The Mineola School District is expected to receive $714,141 less in state aid than it did in 2008-2009, a reduction of 11.81 percent. Of course, school districts could see a boost in state aid as a result of money from the federal stimulus package thus reducing the need for more tax money to fund the budget. However, the Mineola School District is preparing for a worst-case scenario with respect to state aid.

The first draft of the 2009-2010 calls for $79,421,949, an increase of 1.4 percent. The tax levy, or the amount of the budget to be funded by tax dollars, is $72,121,949, an increase of 3.66 percent. The average tax per household in the Mineola School District is $5,400. If residents were to pass the 2009-2010 budget, the average household would see a $197.64 increase for the year.

The first draft of the 2009-2010 budget doesn't call for any layoffs to teachers or administrators. The budget does provide for one less administrator and clerical position. With the retirement of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Larry Licopoli, the board of education will promote Deputy Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler to superintendent and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Sherri Goffman to deputy superintendent. The board will not be filling the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction position.

As a result of no layoffs and the board of education deciding not to close a school for the 2009-2010 school year, the district will retain its small class sizes.

One cost cutting effort is to reduce the capital upgrade fund in the budget. Each year, the board of education budgets $500,000 for the capital upgrades to buildings and grounds in the district. For 2009-2010, the recommendation from the administration to the board is to budget $400,000.

The administration's and board of education's goal has been to put forth a budget with a tax levy increase under the proposed statewide cap of 4 percent. The administration has done that with a 3.66 tax levy increase.

The goal was also to keep cuts away from student programs. However, while the administration and the board may be able to accomplish that in the 2009-2010 budget, it will be more difficult for the 2010-2011 budget.

While the board of education decided not to close a school in 2009, closing a school in 2010 may not be off the table. The 2010-2011 budget could have a major impact on the educational program in Mineola as it could prove to be a year of reckoning for the school district.

The administration has tried to project in the upcoming years what will need to happen for the budget to remain with a tax levy increase under 4 percent. Although there are many factors that could change, it looks as though there are tough decisions ahead for the board.

For the 2010-2011 budget, the administration is projecting that to keep all of the schools open and have a tax levy increase under 4 percent, there would be layoffs to the tune of two administrators, seven teachers, five teacher aides and two clerical positions. In addition, there would be significant cuts to the extracurricular and athletic programs as well as the pre-kindergarten program.

The board still has to decide whether to close a school. Dr. Licopoli recommended that the decision to close a school come by August. It looks as though the school that may be closed is the Cross Street School.

If a school does close, further staff reductions would take place. It is projected that five administrator, 10 teacher and five aide positions would be reduced. The district could still see a loss of pre-kindergarten and extra-curricular activities even with money saved from one less school. The drawback to closing a school is increased class sizes that would come from an increase in enrollment in the schools that remain open.

The next meeting of the Mineola Board of Education will be a workshop meeting on Thursday, March 5 at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Willis Avenue School.

The school board amended its calendar for the 2009-2010 school year. The first calendar has school beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 2 and Thursday, before Labor Day, which falls as Sept. 7. The amended calendar calls for school to start after Labor Day. School will now start on Tuesday, Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day.

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