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Latest Look At Budget

Mineola School District still making changes

The Mineola School District is floating a 2.20 percent tax increase for next year’s proposed budget, .33 percent below the state-allowed maximum. According to District Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler, the board of education plans to adopt the budget at the April 17 business meeting for the Election Day/Budget Vote on May 21.

 

While the numbers are preliminary, the total budget currently sits at $86,143,656, a 2.56 percent increase from the 2012-13 budget.

 

Mineola will receive $5,405,748 in state aid, a $385,748 increase from last year. This comes after the state first reported that the district would receive about $4.4 million, which originally amounted to a .58 percent increase.

 

“I use the word increase lightly, because it’s year-to-year,” Nagler said. “If you recall, last year we lost money. So, if you were to go back to ’08-’09, we were much closer to $5.6 million. We still haven’t caught up in state aid. I’m certainly not complaining. That’s a good amount of revenue to come back to the district.”

 

Mandated increases from the state do not give Mineola wiggle room, but the district is confident that it can budget accordingly, despite getting a nearly flat aid rate year-to-year. Nagler estimated health and pension costs totaled $2.8 million.

 

 “I still need some information before we can be definitive about some of the items here,” Nagler said. “Only $380,000 is not pension and health. So all of the other budget lines we have went up that amount to make up [health and pension costs].”

 

According to district officials, by deferring STEP increases stipulated in the teachers contract settled in November, the school district has a $250,000 fund balance surplus. Teachers are deferring STEP increases for the first six months, staying at a 2011-12 salary.

 

On Feb. 1, teachers moved up one STEP. Starting in the 2013-14 school year, teachers will get a .5 percent increase with STEP paid in February until 2014-15. The proposed budget has $217,000 allocated towards equipment at the middle school and high school. 

 

“We’re proposing to take that $250,000 and give it back to the taxpayer and come in with an increase at 2.20,” said Nagler. “In my initial look at all of Nassau County districts, so far, that’s the lowest.”

 

Nagler recommended that 20 full-time aides be excessed. Mineola is the only district in the county that has co-teacher aides in all classes. The district started the co-teacher practice “many years ago” when the district received federal monies to offset aide costs.

 

“We don’t have those monies anymore,” Nagler said. “We employ a co-teacher model. I believe in that and I support it but I don’t think we need additional personnel.”

 

Aides receive a 3.5 percent STEP each year. The aide unit has received a 14 percent increase on average for every member during negotiations and has not been excessed. No aide has achieved the maximum STEP of 25, according to Nagler.

 

“We’re over budget in this unit by $300,000,” Nagler said. “We need to cap that. I’m not happy about [excessing] but to maintain the budget…we have to keep the staffing under control.”

 

The proposed budget includes installing “man-traps” in all the buildings as part of the security updates coming to the district in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. The district will choose between A+ Technologies and Intralogic Security to implement the new measures.

 

The tentative budget includes all educational and co-curricular, athletic and extracurricular programs. Mineola has pledged to maintain all programs years before the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap was enacted by the state in 2011.

Nagler is recommending an additional section of the 5-day 1/2-day pre-K program, something Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted before the state budget was adopted.

“We house them at Willis [Avenue School] because we don’t have a fair way to distribute the odd number between the two [elementary schools],” Nagler said. “By adding a fourth class, we can have two sections at  [Hampton and Meadow Drive Schools] and have a lottery for each side of town and make it more equitable Cuomo’s pre-K proposal called for spending an extra $25 million to help high-needs school districts start programs for children age 4 or older, or expand existing half-day programs to a full day.

News

In a typical Long Island community packed with houses and backyards, there are a couple of acres of open land of community gardens where people are growing basil and dahlias and roses and cabbages—people like Terry Dunckey of Westbury and Peg Woerner of Great Neck, tending their small plots and helping to promote sustainable and organic practices.

East Meadow Farm, off Merrick Avenue, is owned by Nassau County and operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Nassau County. Previously it was a family-owned farm that was purchased by the county through the Environment Bond Act Program, a $150 million program that called for, among several mandates, the preservation of 400 acres of open space. In 2009, CCE of Nassau was awarded the lease to the land and in January 2012 took possession of the property. East Meadow Farm is a place where we can get the best advice on how to make our gardens grow without harming the earth. Part of the CCE’s original proposal was the establishment of a farmer’s market and, now, the market is open two days a week, a place to purchase organic vegetables and flowers during the growing season.

Drivers—get ready to slow down. Nassau County is currently in the process of installing school zone speed cameras in an effort to enhance safety by encouraging drivers to travel with caution, as well as support law enforcement efforts to crack down on violators and prevent accidents caused by speeding.

Nassau County officials say they’re still investigating locations in the Mineola School District, while leaning towards installing cameras near the North Side or Willets Road schools in the East Williston School District. Cameras could begin operation in September.


Sports

Nobody wants to make excuses, but sometimes when the injury bug hits, it’s impossible to overcome. Mineola Mustangs football head coach Dan Guido, entering his 28th season at helm, knows the injuries were the cause for their first-round defeat at the hands of the West Hempstead Rams last November.

“There was too many injuries on the offensive line last season,” said Guido. “It was supposed to be our strength and it ended up being a weak link by the end of the season.”

Even with those injuries, the Mustangs went 4-4 during the regular season.

The BU15 Mineola Revolution were crowned champions of the Roar at the Shore Tournament 2014 in West Islip on Aug. 10. After dropping the opener 2-0 against North Valley Stream, Mineola bounced back to beat Freeport Premiere 2-1.

The Revolution’s offense exploded in the third game as they beat West Islip 7-0. Mineola’s final game pitted them against Quickstrike FC, which entered the contest without a loss and within a point of winning the tournament.


Calendar

Zoning Meeting

Thursday, Aug. 28

Mineola Village Meeting

Wednesday, Sept. 3

School Board Meeting

Thursday, Sept. 4



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com