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The first in a series of work sessions for the 1998-99 school district budget was held on March 3. The total figure projected for the first draft of the 1998-99 budget is $68,961,655. This represents an anticipated increase of $3,750,903, or 5.75 percent, over last year's budget of $65,210,752.

The first work session was devoted to the General Support part of the budget. A total of $8,035,299 is projected for 1998-99. These expenses include those generated by the Board of Education, Superintendents Office, Business Office, Personnel Office, Public Information Services, Operations and Maintenance, Printing, Insurances and BOCES Administrative/Rental Charges. (The other sections of the budget---instruction, transportation, community services, employee benefits, debt services and interfund transfers---will be discussed at upcoming work sessions (see page 3.)

The school board members and administration went over the general support section with a "fine tooth comb." (It took almost three hours to review 23 pages.) Some items were deleted (i.e. board memberships in National School Board ($2700) and American School Board ($200 were dropped). Some items required additional information (i.e. estimates for a bond counsel, which may be necessary, pending the outcome of the long-range facilities plan).

Several items and issues were discussed. Among them were the following:

* A complete analysis of the district's printing operation was requested by Dr. Inserra, superintendent of schools, and the board. He stated that this may have staff implications. An estimated 18 million copies of school related materials are produced yearly by the district. The board is looking for ways to either decrease some of its copying and/or increase productivity by upgrading its equipment.

* The hiring of a public relations person for the school district was proposed. Board member Joe Mirzoeff strenuously objected to this recommendation because he feels that the school district should not be "sold" or "marketed," but instead worked on being "improved." However, the Public Relations Committee feels that the public is not getting all of the information it should.

* Two full-time custodial positions will be added this year to the plant operation budget, to be deployed--- 1 at Guggenheim, and .5 at Daly and Manorhaven.

* The custodial overtime line item for $275,000 was questioned. Eric Vonderhorst, director of facilities and operations for the district, explained that the demands to open the building on the weekends for sports, etc. is the main reason for this expenditure.

* The water bill estimate for 1998 shows an additional $18,700. Dr. Inserra explained that the water district mandated that the school district install new water meters, and this figure reflects this change.

* In terms of maintenance projects, board member Nancy Cowles asked that carpeting be installed in the pre-K rooms, so that the children don't have to sit on the bare floors for story time, etc.

Updating the repairs and improvements for the Daly portables, Mr. Vonderhorst reported that his crew is currently working on roof replacement, especially on the double portable. This summer, the district's maintenance crew will be removing the old carpeting and putting in a new floor and new vapor barrier. Once the roof is repaired, the old and stained ceiling tiles will be replaced and given a fresh coat of paint, he said.

Also this summer, according to Mr. Vonderhorst, the second floor ceiling will be replaced with a dropped ceiling, which will also be part of a general new lamping project.

Board President Candy Rossettie noted that after the facilities tour, which is scheduled for March 24, the board members will probably be suggesting other maintenance projects.

Generally speaking, board member Sandy Ehrlich reported that she found some items listed in the budget a bit difficult and confusing to follow. Assistant Superintendent of Business Larry Blake explained that the budget must conform with State Education Department mandates which dictate the presentation and coding of each item in the budget, making it difficult to identify what the item is specifically. He noted that administration attempts to provide back-up material.

As a point of information, very few residents attended this meeting. One resident spoke about the budget.

Alan Baer commented that he hadn't heard what the board's goal is for the budget. "Is it to cut operating costs to make up for the increases in the teacher's contract?", he asked. Board President Rossettie said that at this time, the board still is discussing it. Mr. Mirzoeff, speaking generally, said, "We're looking to get the best education for a reasonable price."

Mr. Baer also asked for the student enrollment figure the budget was based upon. Dr. Inserra said, "4,200 range."

Mr. Baer expressed concern over the district's $180,000 annual telephone bill, and asked if any cost saving measures had been taken. Mr. Blake reported that recently, Alan Adcock, assistant business manager, contacted the various telephone services and is in the process of assessing various cost saving proposals they made.

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