Written by D.F. Karppi Friday, 16 April 2010 00:00
After months of looking at the needs of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District for the term of 2010-2011, the board voted on April 6 to accept the final budget figure of $48,738,155. It means an increase of 2.89 percent over last year’s budget figure of $47,367,428. The budget-to-budget increase is $1,370,727.
During the deliberations on April 6, the board decided to eliminate Intramurals and at the suggestion of board member Keith Kowalsky, use the $22,704 for education. The result was they restored 1.0 FTE to the high school. It will give some flexibility to the American Sign Language offerings.
Dr. Harrington said rather than buying a new truck for $39,000 they will maintain the current truck – which costs about $3,000 to $4,000 for repair a year.
She cancelled clerical overtime and part-time hours, which will slow down the work in the summer bookroom; and reduced the utilities and repair line in the budget – which she said was an acceptable risk. There were also reductions in Professional Development and BOCES services – not those for the students – and their rates are lower now, she added.
As for the Intramurals held mornings at the Vernon School, Dr. Harrington said the budget line for Clubs was flexible and teachers could use that line for Intramural costs during the winter if they so desired. She said while the parents like the Drama Club, “We struggle to find a teacher for it.”
During the budget approval discussion, board member Keith Kowalsky mentioned feeling handcuffed by the constraints of the budget.
Dr. Harrington said the budget is a “flexible fluid document, and we can add Intramurals in the winter; and if a club has to run - Clubs cost pennies.” The principal will make the final decisions as to the clubs and intramurals.
During the discussion, Robin Dando said she was concerned with cutting out trips such as to the WaterFront Center. “We have it in Oyster Bay. I’d rather do that than high school intramurals.” Trustee Michael Castellano agreed saying, “We have it here and others don’t. We have a natural museum. We should use it.”
Trustee James Mattel said, “Most of us can walk to the WaterFront Center. It’s a free thing, we should cut out what we can’t do as a family.”
Later, James Robinson, board president, explained that when the school brings the students to the WFC, they try to fit it into the curriculum - which is very important and that’s what is covered, when the school itself is involved in the trips. The funding for the trips comes under the same shared clubs and Intramural money, he said.
Other issues resolved include the seventh- and eighth-grade athletics and will not be combined; golf and bowling are back. Everything that exists in athletics this year will be there for next year.
During the meeting Grace Searby said she had a delicate question to ask. “The budget line for the superintendent’s salary says it is in negotiation,” she said, “Are you planning an increase? Can you tell us now? Can we be made aware of it?”
Trustee Donald Zoller answered saying, “If we reached a decision, we need to disclose it; but we haven’t gotten to it and won’t till after the budget is approved. The school policy says that once it is agreed upon it is announced.”
Ms. Searby asked where the money was coming from. Ms. Searby said that when she was an OBEN board of education member, the board went into executive session the night the budget was approved and came out and told the public.
Board member Robin Dando said quietly, “That is not true. I was on the board with you and that isn’t true.”
[In the past the budget appears to have what is needed to fund an increase for the superintendent from some other existing code.]
With the budget increase at 2.89 percent, Dr. Harrington said, “We’ve made the hard decision and major cuts [from a proposed budget with a 6.16 percent increase]. At some time they have to be put back, but with the economic crisis we have to be responsive to the community. It’s come in below 3 percent. The students coming into the kindergarten will be graduating in 2023. I’d be embarrassed if the community can’t support the budget. But, given there are some risks, it is a reasonable budget. You can hold your heads high.”
Grace Searby questioned that there were two code lines for Intramurals – one for $29,782 turned out to be for coaching which includes supplies, dues and transportation.
Parent Jen Romano asked what would happen if the capital projects resolution didn’t pass. Dr. Harrington said, “We have to make it clear that it has no impact to the voter.” A later question on the subject prompted the comment that some of the projects couldn’t be put off and had to be done.
Parent Louis Cohen was happy to hear the board’s decisions, especially in regards to Intramurals and clubs. He said, “Half the time kids change their minds” so flexibility was the way to proceed.
The ballot will also include a separate line for the OB-EN Library budget for 2010-2011, which comes to $1,899,347 minus revenues, bringing the needed amount to $1,704,347. The library funds are raised by the school district.
If the district budget is voted down the first time, the board can put it up to the public again. If both fail, the district will go on a Contingency Budget which means they must reduce the amount by $1.3 million. The funds must come from staff and program reductions. Those reductions are: elementary class size would be increased; they would not have enrichment at the Roosevelt School in science, technology and the Atlantis program; two supervisory/administrative positions will be removed. Athletics, other than varsity teams, would be removed, as would all co-curricular activities.
“It’s not a threat,” said Dr. Harrington, “but guaranteed, if we can’t sell the budget for what we need for our kids, that is what will happen.”
Grace Searby asked if the capital projects could be divided into more than one resolution saying, “Hopefully the entire item will pass.”
Board President James Robinson said the public notice had already gone out, it was too late for changes. Whatever happens, the drainage problems, the gutter guards are critical and have to be taken care of. He said if they wait for the projects longer, they would just come back at a significantly higher figure later and that this might be a good time for competitive bidding.
Ms. Dando added that if the insurance company condems the stadium they would have to get portables – which are unsightly.
As proposed in the budget plan, the board agreed to increase the appropriated fund balance to $925,000. Because of the loss of state aid, they want to minimize the risk of the next budget having a big tax levy spike.
As the board closes out their books, on June 30, Mr. Van Cott sees a projected surplus of $2.1 million. It is the result of coming in under budget; receiving more revenue; and spending less.
With part of it going to fund the Appropriated Fund Balance for next year of $925,000 that will leave about $1.1 million that needs to be decided upon.
In relation to a telephone call from the public about the proposed stadium, it is for boy’s sports only and therefore the bathroom has urinals, as it appears on the plans. Diane Hannah, secretary of Buildings and Grounds, for which Mr. Van Cott is in charge explained that the stadium is only for JV and Varsity football and JV and Varsity baseball. There is no lacrosse or soccer played on the Memorial Field. The lacrosse and soccer games are played at Vernon. The girls softball is also played at Vernon.
The public is not allowed to use the stadium bathroom facility. The public uses the press box bathrooms by the concession area. The stadium is for OB-EN teams and not the visiting teams. The visiting teams usually come dressed or use the bathrooms at the Roosevelt School.