Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 09 March 2012 00:00
It’s that time of the year again; only now, there’s a cap on what can be done. School districts are in the mad dash to get under the inaugural 2 percent tax cap enacted by New York State. Mineola pulled out of the starting gate March 1.
Finance superintendent Jack Waters presented the first draft of the 2012-2013 school district budget at last week’s workshop meeting. Preliminary figures suggested that the Mineola School District could not exceed a 1.93 percent tax levy increase next year.
The first draft of next year’s budget has Mineola operating on $83,342,180, which reflects a 1.04 percent decrease from the 2011-2012 budget of $84,221,638. The drafted tax levy for 2012-2013 is currently $76,242,180 or a $1,443,803 (1.93 percent) increase from the current tax levy.
“The current budget of $84.2 million, take out the transfer to capital of about $2.6 million gives you an adjusted operation budget of $81.6 million dollars [in 2011-2012],” Waters stated. “Our first draft budget [for 2012-2013) is $83.3 million so there’s an increase of $1.7 million which represents a 2.15 percent increase budget-to-budget.”
According to Waters, districts now determine their budgets based on total estimated revenue they receive each budget year. He estimated Mineola state aid for next school year at $4,970,000 with “other” income of $2,130,000.
“When we put out the financial documents, we have to reflect the ’11-’12 budget versus ’12-’13 so the 84.2 million is the number that was adopted,” Waters stated. “Our draft ’12-’13 represents an almost $900,000 decrease from the previous budget or a decrease of 1.04 percent year-to-year.”
The district would see a $500,000 increase in salaries and a $900,000 in benefits in the current 2012-2013 draft compared to last year’s budget. Next year’s budget accounts for one retired teacher and two retired administrators.
“There will be further reductions reflected in salaries,” Waters concluded.
The presented draft had no staff excess except retirees calculated into the budget and all current programs are included. Mineola is one of the few districts that maintained a tax levy of 2.50 percent or lower over the last few years without cutting programs.
“If you notice, the salary number has decreased comparing the 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 year,” District Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said. “That’s a result of closing schools and cutting staff and not having as many people work for us, while benefits are increasing at a sharp rate. Overall, budgets are equaling each other out, but had we not known that, the salary number would’ve moved as quickly as the benefit number. Nobody is making less money. It’s not going down for that reason. It’s going down because we’re excusing people.”
Projected increases of $700,000 in pension costs and $300,000 in health costs are factored into this draft. These increases are part of unfunded mandates that school districts across the state are still seeking relief from.
Waters said at this time last year, the state was projecting an 18 percent increase in premium costs for the calendar year, but Mineola was fortunate to only be hit with a 3.4 percent jump. He stated further that may afford the district to not endure a substantial increase in the current budget draft.
“It’s looks a little bit low in terms of a $300,000 increase but it’s right on the projected increase we’ve been given by the state,” Waters said. “One thing we have to keep in mind is that this is a calendar year premium so we’re in the 2012 year right now. We know that from July 1 through Dec. 31, the premium only increased 3.4 percent. What happens Jan. 1, 2013 through Dec. 31 we’re not sure yet.”