Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 05 March 2014 00:00
The Mineola School District Board of Education disbanded its finance committee last week. Mineola is not required by law to have a finance committee. They are only mandated to hold an audit committee in place, officials said.
“I felt that we were asking the committee to stay in place without any real purpose, at least from my point of view,” School Board President Artie Barnett said. “I think we could have a discussion and see if they are needed or not.”
Citing changes in the budgetary process, district trustees feel crafting a budget, although fiscally challenging, is pretty cut and dry due to the 2 percent tax cap.
“We struggled from a board of education perspective that we’re trying to identify tasks to see where we can utilize the committee,” trustee William Hornberger, the board’s finance rep, said.
According to Hornberger, there were mixed emotions concerning the disbanding of the committee, which was formed in 2006.
“The members have always given the time and effort to shine lights where, not every member has that expertise to understand the dynamics of a budget,” he said. “They’ve made change happen. But I understand why [we’re disbanding]. I don’t disagree with it.”
Vice President Christine Napolitano was on the board in 2006 when the committee was formed. She “appreciates what they’ve done.”
“I think things have changed,” she said, mentioning audit processes and the tax cap. “The buck, the responsibility...everything lands here. We’re the ones that have to take the heat when everything comes down. But we’re not precluded from saying ‘hey, we need a finance committee.’”
Resident Bryan Bradley, who sat on the committee and once ran for trustee in 2005 and 2006, feels the committee can still be viable, specifically in analyzing and project what district contracts will cost Mineola. He says this was brought up in previous discussions.
“The last few years, we have had a lack of direction,” he said. “You have the committee project what contracts will cost you over the course of the contract. There’s a lot of projections when contracts come up. You can have us see if they are accurate.”
Bradley questioned the structuring the teacher’s contract, specifically increases. The district reached an agreement on a new contract in November 2012. Total year-to-year salaries went up 1 percent, according to District Superintendent Michael Nagler.
“The increase from year to year is half the money until the end,” Nagler said. “We generate a $250,000 surplus in the teachers salary line for two budget cycles. The last budget cycle, we don’t.”
With the budget, Nagler says the surplus comes from not paying the full amount for the first six months of the school year.
“In the budget, we’re calculating a full STEP each year,” Nagler said. “We’re not paying a full STEP for half of the year. That’s why you can’t show a reduction in the budget but you can show the surplus that money wasn’t spent. We showed a surplus last year. We’re going to show one this year.”