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School Budget, School Closings Discussed At Board Meeting

No Decision Yet on Which Buildings to Close

The Mineola School Board held a meeting last Thursday night, during which the second phase of the budget was presented. When it came time for public comment, some members of the public discussed the board’s decision to close schools, which came at the previous board meeting.

The board and the administration are currently in the process of formulating a budget for the 2010-2011 school year. The budget will be voted on in May.

 

The budget, as it stands, calls for all of the district curricular and extracurricular programs to remain. In addition, the budget calls for the yearly $500,000 allocation for facility upgrades, $130,000 for the purchase of new equipment and $126,000 for leasing nine vehicles, as well as $100,000 for year five of the technology plan.

The budget excludes $900,000 in salaries and benefits from seven employees who are retiring and $200,000 in salaries and benefits from administrator positions.

The budget, at this point, calls for $81 million in expenditures, an increase of 2.27 percent of the current year’s budget. The increase in the tax levy, which is the amount of the budget to be raised by tax dollars, is 3.79 percent.

The board of education has a goal of presenting a budget to voters in May that calls for a 2.5 percent tax levy increase. According to Mineola Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Nagler, in order to do that, a reduction of $900,000 must be made from the budget. Dr. Nagler said those cuts would mostly come from personnel, since salaries and benefits of personnel account for the majority of the budget. The superintendent also said the district will be aware of how such cuts would affect the educational program of the district.

When it came time for public comment, a Mineola resident inquired whether the two schools the board voted to close will be announced at the same time or whether one school will close and then the board will decide which other school will close.

Dr. Nagler responded that a plan would be complete and definitive so that residents will know which schools will close at the same time. A committee was formed to study grade reconfiguration and which configuration will best serve the district. That will help to decide which schools to close. The committee is in the process of meeting. Its first meeting was held on March 2.

A resident of Albertson expressed his disappointment about the board’s decision to close schools. He questioned why the board would change the neighborhood school model when it is yielding positive results. “I have a fear of messing with something that’s working,” he said.

Board of education president Will Hornberger responded that the board could not continue to roll over budgets with the expectation that the community will support them. The opportunity to reconfigure the grades gives the districts a chance to create more equity when it comes to class sizes in addition to preserving the district’s programs with an eye toward enhancing them.

Dr. Nagler said with revenues from state and federal aid decreasing, the only way to reduce the tax levy is by reducing expenses. The vast majority of expenses are tied to staff salaries and benefits. The only way to drastically reduce staff without affecting the educational program is by closing school buildings. Dr. Nagler said the decision the board made to close schools was made to keep the district’s programs so that when cuts are needed to put forth budgets the community will support, those cuts do not come from programs.

The next board of education meeting will be a business meeting on Thursday, March 18 at 7 p.m. in the Willis Avenue School.