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OBEN Board Deliberates Budget Asks for Under Three Percent Raise

Capital Projects to Go for Voter Approval to Use Reserve Funds

As the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Board of Education deliberated its budget figures, it considered what the district needs were in terms of capital projects. They considered what was critical and had to be done and what could be held off. They decided to put the capital projects into a referendum on the ballot on May 18, asking the public to approve the use of the available Capital Reserve Fund – which can only be used for capital projects.

 

The Capital Projects presentation was made by Christopher Van Cott, OBEN Assistant Supervisor of Business. The basic material of his talk from the March 16 meeting is available on the school district site, obenschools.org.

Mr. Van Cott began with the initial information that as first proposed/compiled, the 2010-2011 budget would have meant an increase of 6.16 percent. Superintendent Phyllis Harrington looked over those initial figures and was able to pare down the budget resulting in the smaller increase of 3.70 percent. That figure was further cut through teacher retirements, due to an incentive program for those eligible for retirement plus accrued sick time as an incentive. About five teachers are retiring and those positions will be replaced at a lower salary, he said in a telephone interview. Another reduction was a result of a lower figure for the Teachers Retirement system that came in lower than estimated. The result is a lower figure for the budget of 2.96 percent.

Budget Percentages

The total budget as it exists is broken down into three categories: program, 72.8 percent for general education, special education, transportation and classroom materials; administration, 13.3 percent for BOE, administrators, legal/audit/finance and clerical costs; and the third category, capital projects, 13.9 percent which includes debt service, custodial and capital projects.

Community Feedback

During the previous two meetings parents had spoken about some of the proposed cuts and at the March 16 meeting, Mr. Van Cott presented several “scenarios” for the board to consider. That included the decision on what would result if the board decided to retain golf, bowling and not combine 7/8th grade sports but leave them separate, as well as restore intramurals and clubs which would mean a 3.20 percent increase. Additionally, Dr. Harrington made a new suggestion for the American Sign Language teacher. The position will be offered as a high school elective. Those changes in the proposed budget brought the figure to 3.26 percent.

Under 3 Percent

The board listened to Mr. Van Cott and said they wanted the staff to bring the budget down to under 3 percent. Mr. Van Cott said the staff was working on the proposal to get to the 3 percent figure for the April 6 meeting, when the board would make their final decisions and vote to approve the budget.

The April 6 meeting will be reported on in the April 15 issue of the Enterprise Pilot.

Contingency Considerations

With a possible increase figure set, the discussion went to what would happen if the district were on a contingency budget which would mean a “zero percent increase” because the state bases the figure on the GPI, which is at a minus number currently. If the residents vote down the budget the board can present it to the public twice, if they care to do that. If the budget fails twice the district goes on to a contingency budget which would mean they will have to make staff and program reductions of $1.3 million, on top of the current cuts.

Tax Levy Recommendation

Because the district has lost the projected NYS Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) of $335,000, (a reduction in state aid) they want to plug the state aid hole with a larger appropriated fund balance of $925,000. The reason is to minimize the risk of the next budget having a big tax levy spike. With preparing for the problem, there will not be a need to find that money, especially if the state continues to not provide funding to the district next year. This is another decision the board made on April 6.

Proposed Capital Reserve Projects

The district currently has a Capital Reserve Fund of $2,071,819. Items that need attention include: repairs to the Memorial Stadium Field House - $950,000; [the OBHS marquee, $80,000 which was taken out by the board]; the OBHS gym gutter snow guards - $55,000; repair the OBHS gym leak - $50,000; OBHS banks/drainage (Work on altering the landscape banks to provide for better drainage) - $375,000. The total for the project adds up to “not more than” $1,430,000.

There will be a proposition on the ballot with all the capital projects listed for voter approval. They include the above and the work on the stadium. The legal notice has gone out for this resolution.

Memorial Stadium Options

There were three options to chose from in regard to the work needed at the Memorial Stadium and the board voted to take the third, complete option.

The first option was to just do the external work only, with new windows, doors, water seal and paint for $150,000. The second option was to do both the internal and the external work and redesign of the interior for $375,000.

The board chose the third option which includes both the internal and external work and adds a 650-square foot addition at a total cost of $950,000. Work on the stadium has long been considered over the years, as a project that needed to be done.

Mr. Van Cott said, “We always have leaks at the stadium and in the fall, we had some rains that leaked in and loosened up plaster and it was falling to the ground. We had a structural engineer say that the building is in need of renovation. He said it is structurally sound but it was built in the 1950s and there is always going to be issues unless the building is maintained and made watertight. To knock it down would cost millions and we can’t do it. Added to that it has historical significance, and has a bronze plaque from the Oyster Bay War Memorial Committee.”

Option Three would add a 650-square foot front section to the building on the corner of Larrabee Avenue and Shore Road with an additional locker room; a training room; and coachs’ office. The total cost of the work on the stadium is $950,000.

OBHS Gym Leaks

Mr. Van Cott said that the architect has already repaired the door saddles and inspected the roof/gutters and performed a water test. He has said there is a need to open the base of the high school gym wall to examine flashing and weep holes, since an infrared camera displayed high moisture concentrations at the base of the masonry wall. The new architect wants to review the prior architect’s drawings to see if the weep holes were installed correctly.

The cost for the exploratory work and the resulting repairs is not to exceed $50,000. The cost for the snow guards is not to exceed $55,000.

OBHS Gym Floor

The OBHS gym floor is being handled with an insurance claim and a new floor installed between May 19 and June 26. The work will include a new air flow system. Mr. Van Cott explained that because of the barrel shape of the roof, the snow melts and slides off and has damaged the gutters which then allowed water to get in. “We believe water is coming in at the base of the wall of the gym and there are signs the floor might buckle.”

Mr. Van Cott said a company already removed sections of the gym floor, let it dry out, and returned a month ago and started the process again. The result is the entire floor will be reinstalled because of water damage. The work will be covered by insurance but the company wants the district to make sure it doesn’t happen again and therefore they are doing work on the banks and drainage above the gym. Also as a part of the insurance work, a fan system will be installed so any water that might get in will be dried out by the fans – all at no cost to the district.

OBHS Banks and Drainage

The banks of land behind the tennis courts will be removed and replaced with a retaining wall – with drainage at the top and drainage between the wall and the tennis courts to redirect the water from the gym and courts. Mr. Van Cott said the work is involved since it means a lot of excavation and site work and a large retaining wall that requires footing and steel rebars for reinforcment. Eventually the district may have to replace the tennis courts, that have been getting “bandage-work” over the years, he said. Water flows from the top of the hill, to the fields, to the gym base. Therefore additional drainage will be provided at the top of the hill and a drain on the connecting sidewalk behind the tennis courts. The work is not to exceed $320,000.

Existing plantings in OBHS gym banks are to be removed and replaced with low maintenance plantings for a cost not to exceed $55,000.

The total work is not to exceed $375,000 which will be on the capital projects resolution for voter approval to use the existing reserve funds.

There is a potential to put the tennis court work into the 2011-2012 Capital Reserve Project. Mr. Van Cott said, “The board may decide to do the tennis courts completely then, if we have solved the water issues this year.”

Currently the insurance company said the courts should not be used by the teams and the public because of cracks and maintenance needs. The district wants to fix them up for the teams and for the summer program.

The hope is that the use of the capital reserve funds will allow the district to address the problems with water and prevent cracking.