Those driving through the streets of Oyster Bay hamlet may have noticed something different in recent days: new street signs.
The new blue and white signs with brackets shaped like sails are meant to pay tribute to Oyster Bay’s nautical history, according to John Bonifacio, president of the Oyster Bay Main Street Association.
“They are a nice addition to the town,” Bonifacio says.
The plan for new signage in the downtown area has been in the works since 2000, a project undertaken by the Main Street Association (MSA) as well as community groups. The cost of the custom-made signs is covered by a matching grant; the MSA raised $70,000, and the federal government matched those funds.
For many people, the mention of taxes, percentages and points can be a source of stress and anxiety. Add politics to the mix and you have a sure fire recipe for confusion.
For those of you who enjoy pouring over all the facts and figures, everything is posted in the Budget Information page on the Oyster Bay – East Norwich School website.
For the rest of us, let’s try to understand what is going on in the simplest way we can.
The first thing to understand is what makes up a school budget. Just like you do at home, the schools have to make a good guess at how much money will be needed to meet expenses for the near future. Those estimates are spelled out line by line in an expenditure budget.
The next step is figuring out how to pay for these projected expenses. School districts get some of their revenue from state aid, federal aid, local revenues and reserves. The amount received from all these sources is never enough to fund the entire expenditure budget.
The amount not covered by those revenue sources is made up from taxpayers in the form of a tax levy. It is this revenue item that New York State has limited. New York State passed into law a “2 percent limit” on the tax levy. However, the 2 percent figure was just a starting point. The state allows for exclusions to the limit. Depending on how the exclusions are figured in, some district’s limit comes in higher than 2 percent and some lower.
Some of the permitted exclusions are for real estate growth in the community, debt service, and district contribution to the retirement systems. When all the factors are calculated, the Oyster Bay East Norwich school tax levy limit for 2013-2014 is currently set at 3.09 percent. This number may change as more information comes in from the state, but should only deviate by .05 percent either way.
After a couple of years of hearing the Governor talk about a “2 percent cap,” it is easy to see why people are confused by the 3.09 percent figure that we are now working with. To be clear, our 3.09 percent tax levy limit is the amount allowed by New York State.
A district may choose to go higher than the permitted tax levy limit. However, a budget that is higher than the limit must pass the vote by a super majority of 60 percent. The OBEN Board of Education decided to stay within the state levy limit and will not need a super majority to carry the vote.
The trouble is that the business of operating our schools while maintaining all the programs we have in place will be more expensive next year. An “as is” budget for next year would cost 4.72 percent more than last year. However, since we can only increase the tax levy by 3.09 percent, a ‘budget gap’ has been created between revenue and expenditures.
Many school districts around the state are faced with cutting jobs and programs to close this budget gap.
Oyster Bay – East Norwich can be proud of the work done by the district administrative team. Last year was the first year of the Levy Limit Law. Showing great innovation, the administration closed the budget gap for the 2012-2013 school year without cutting any programs or jobs. Each subsequent year gets more and more difficult to keep up with rising costs. The 2013-2014 budget gap is going to be difficult to close without increasing class sizes and cutting programs.
Board of Education Trustee James Robinson said, “Preparing the budget is not a sprint to May 21, but rather a marathon for the future of the excellent educational program in Oyster Bay-East Norwich.”
It will become more and more difficult to close the budget gap each subsequent year that the levy limit is in place. The district administration has proposed cutting expenditures by $451,000 and dipping into the fund balance to raise the revenues to close the budget gap this year.
Many people wonder why the district does not just use the fund balance to bring the tax levy even lower. Many districts have been forced to do this and are now facing financial disaster. The district administration has proposed a budget that is within the tax levy limit while keeping an eye on the fiscal well-being of the District for the years ahead.
Not only has New York State limited the tax revenue the district can raise, but has also cut state aid to the district. This year Oyster Bay – East Norwich received over four hundred thousand dollars less from the State than was received in 2008-2009. Cuts in State Aid amount to over 2 million dollars less than OBEN would have gotten had the amount of State Aid remained the same since 2008-2009.
New York State Assemblyman Al Graf of Holbrook says, “A disproportionate share of education funds comes from the people of Long Island and the amount returned gets smaller and smaller every year.”
Long Island represents about 17 percent of school-aged children and homeowners pay the most in taxes. However, Long Island only gets about 12 percent of total school aid paid out by the state. The board of education will decide where cuts are to be made, how much reserves should be used and adopt the 2013-2014 budget at the April 16 meeting.
On May 21, the polls will be open at Oyster Bay High School from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. for the budget vote. The vote will be decided by a majority above 50 percent.
If the budget fails, the board of education can choose to have a second vote, which carries with it the cost of hiring people to work at the polling place and renting the machines. If the budget fails a 50 percent majority a second time, the district would be forced into a contingency budget that would result in a significant loss of programs.
With bluegrass music playing, the sound of a model railroad roaring by and the happy chatter of a successful party, the new exhibit at Planting Fields Foundation (PFF) opened to a preview audience on April 4. Henry Joyce, PFF executive director and Gwendolyn L. Smith, PFP assistant curator at and curator of All Aboard: A Railway Fortune at Planting Fields can be confident of a great run.
Henry Joyce said, “It’s a wonderful exhibit because it’s such fun and it brings out the child in all of us. It also explains why Planting Fields is here. Mai Rogers Coe’s fortune is what built it.”
Joyce’s exuberance and warmth invites the public to come and experience the exhibit through a series of themed events. [See our calendar to chose your favorites.] The exhibit opened to the public on Saturday at the Manor House and runs through Sept. 2.
George Jehn of Bayville, an airline pilot, has just published his first book, and the novel is taking off.
Flying Too Close To The Sun was published in December of last year.
The fast-paced story tells the tale of airline pilots who are struggling financially, and come up with a scheme to end their woes. The original plot and well-developed characters draw the reader in from the outset, and the story is told with visual language in a way that allows one to envision it on the big screen (which, by the way, Jehn hinted might be a possibility).
The first lecture in the 2013 John A. Gable series kicked-off with Roger L. Di Silvestro on March 21 at the Christ Church in Oyster Bay. Di Silvestro journeyed from Virginia to speak about his 2011 book, Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands: A Young Politician’s Quest for Recovery in the American West.
There is always debate on whether the West or New York played a more significant role in shaping the character and life of Teddy Roosevelt. The East had TR for much more time, and his involvement in NYC, as State Assemblyman, Commissioner of the NYC Police Board, Civil Service reformer and finally, Governor can be measured. In contrast, TR spent parts of four years in the Badlands of what is now North Dakota, with his day total on the plains just shy of one year. While the East provided stability and accomplishment, the West was cathartic and healed a broken heart after TR’s first wife died suddenly on the same day, and in the same house, as his mother on Valentine’s Day, 1884.
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site was the recipient of a great volunteer enterprise by the Long Island Arboricultural Association (LIAA) on Saturday, March 23. Each year, since 1990, members have celebrated Arbor Day by donating a tree and tree care services to a public-owned facility. This year it was Sagamore Hill. In the past they have volunteered locally at Planting Fields, 2011; and at Chelsea-Muttontown Preserve in 2008. Their first event in 1990 was at Belmont State Park, at the Historic Belmont Pines on the Southern State Parkway.
It was a daunting procedure as it was in the middle of the highway. It was done with the help of then NYS Senator Owen H. Johnson of West Babylon who attended the March 23 event representing Governor Andrew Cuomo.
As the deadline for next year’s budget draws nearer, the Oyster Bay-East Norwich school board discussed using this year’s projected fund balance to bridge a $385,000 revenue gap.
Though all the board members at the March 19 meeting at the Oyster Bay High School Library seemed supportive of using some of the fund balance, one area of discussion was how much to use and whether the board should ask for more or less from voters when the proposed budget is placed on the ballot for voter approval May 21. ‘
When people talk of the hidden pearls of Oyster Bay, Opera Nights at Christ Church certainly qualifies. Sunday, March 17, Opera Nights celebrated St. Patrick’s Day as soprano Danielle Davis opened the concert with “Sally Gardens” by Benjaman Britten, followed by “Danny Boy,” which, she said correctly, everyone knew. The concert was closed with a lovely rendition of “Waiting for my Dearie,” from Lerner and Lowe’s Broadway musical Brigadoon by performed by Kimberly Iannuzzi, soprano.
In between, the singers took listeners from country to country in song. The beauty of opera is you don’t have to know the language to love the song. The voices and the emotion the singers send out to the audience bridges the gap.
Photographer Xiomáro proved himself to be very generous with his art and his knowledge of photography, as he talked about the core focus of his exhibit, How I Love Sagamore Hill, at the Koenig Center on March 16. The title is taken from the last words the 26th President of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt said to his wife Edith, “You don’t know how much I love Sagamore Hill.”
Xiomáro told of his history with the National Park Service and said he began his assignment at Sagamore Hill by taking snapshots throughout the house and then returning with his professional equipment: lights, tripod, and light reflecting devices to set up the digital photographs that he then worked on to finally present to the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. He presented Superintendent Thomas Ross with 144 prints, to use to their benefit. Ross was responsible for his taking on the project.
A children’s book publisher has opened for business in Oyster Bay, and has already won awards in its first month of operation, though with no storefront, you might not be aware of it. Bish Bash Books publishes eBooks for children that can be purchased online and read on iPads or iPhones.
Co-founder Danielle M. Taylor says she had the thought of starting her own business as she was preparing to go back to work after having her two sons, who are only 11 months apart. With a background in publishing, and a love of reading, Bish Bash Books was soon born.
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