At the May 6 BOE meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Geoff Gordon advised the board of the further cuts he and the staff have made to bring the budget increase down to the 4.95 percent the BOE had requested. This represents an increase of $5,747,103 over last year's spending plan. The increase for the "average" home, according to Nassau County's April 30 information, is $522. Dr. Gordon reported that they were able to keep all current teachers and staff and stay within the district's class size policy, while maintaining all programs. In addition the $350,000 in the special education, which was cut from the earlier proposed budget, was returned, along with $420,000 for clerical positions.
The latest reductions from the proposed budget that the board has been working with since February are as follows:
Custodial overtime-$300,000. (Dr. Gordon noted that the overtime being cut is not health or safety related.)
Bus driver overtime-$20,000
Textbooks- $280,000 (from the original increase of $600,000)
District-wide conferences-$45,000 (Unless they are guaranteed by contract)
Additional estimated retirement savings-$180,000
Additional estimated savings on teacher replacements -$72,000
(Hire MA15/Step2 instead of Step 4-saves $10-$15,000.
Deferred hire dates-$30,000 (Two administrators)
School libraries supplies-$45,000
Estimated savings on Social Security-$50,000 (Some on hiring lower on the lower Steps)
Transportation contracts-$108,000. The district was able to do this by combining some of the private school routes where schools were in proximity. It will make some of the trips longer, which the district prefers not to do, but felt they it was necessary. Board members expressed some regret that the clubs in the elementary schools had to be cut. However, the administration is exploring the possibility of students paying for clubs themselves.
Should the budget be voted down twice, the contingency budget increase would be 3.59 percent, with a 3.42 percent tax levy. The increase for the average home would be $383, representing a savings of $139. A total of $1,573,259 would have to be cut from the budget.
The increase in the tax levy (4.89 percent) is lower than the spending budget increase (4.95 percent) this year for two reasons. One is because of the revenues from adult education ($160,000), which had not been included in the 06-07 budget, but are now back as the program was returned to the district. Secondly, the district received $300,000 in high tax aid that was not in the original state aid proposals. The total of $460,000 is he difference that causes the levy to be lower than the budget increase.
Dr. Gordon also announced some good news for the district. A few years ago the county notified the school district that an agreement was reached with Pall Corporation that would reduce the company's taxes by $680,000, and that the county was going to back charge the school district.
Dr. Gordon felt that it was not the district's agreement, and they had not even been consulted on the issue. He commented, "We felt that our taxpayers and students were being unfairly penalized for a county agreement.
He added, "After several years, two significant preparations for the original preparation and appeal, the appeals court ruled in our favor." He further noted that the attorney, Bob Cohen, stated that only two districts, Port and Bethpage, had the "gumption" to take on the county.
Dr. Gordon also announced that the commissioner of education has dismissed an appeal made by Frank Russo. Mr. Russo claimed that the school board improperly authorized expenditures to replace the roof at the Manorhaven School while operating on the contingency budget of 2005-06. He complained that it was improper for the board to conduct a capital improvement project without voter approval. He also claimed that the roof work was not an emergency contingent expense because it has been the subject of proposals and discussions for seven years, and, therefore was not unanticipated.
According to an article in the April 28th edition of On Board, in dismissing the appeal, the commissioner explained that roof repair constitutes an ordinary contingent expense if necessary to preserve the district's property. Furthermore, "it was because of the voters' repeated rejections of proposals to fix the roof that its condition had deteriorated to a state of emergency. To disregard the district architect's report about the roof's condition would have placed the safety of students and staff in jeopardy, according to the commissioner."
The district's legal fees for this suit were approximately $10,000, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Mary Callahan's recollection of what the attorneys told her.
Dr. Gordon also mentioned that the $940,000 for the roof repair was fully reimbursed by EXCEL aid from the New York State Dormitory Authority.
The budget vote and school board election will be held on Tuesday, May 20 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. at Sousa Elementary School, Daly Elementary School, South Salem Elementary School or Weber Middle School. For your location, visit the school district website: www.k12.ny.us or call 767-5010