At the April 7 BOE meeting, the proposed budget was brought down another $269,000, making the draft proposal a 2.6 percent increase, or $3.1 million. The decrease was a result of the Custodial/Maintenance workers (CSEA) and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Geoff Gordon voluntarily foregoing their raises for next year. Several people at the meeting voiced their appreciation and respect for the union's and Dr. Gordon's sacrifices for the district and its children. Dr. Gordon also pointed out that these actions help save the jobs of other district employees. He also noted that the union approached the administration with its offer.
Richie Acevedo, president of the Local CSEA, said that his group wanted to support President Obama's efforts to get the economy back on its feet and bring the country together.
Board member Rob Seiden, among others, commended the CSEA, pointing out that its members are also affected by the downturn. He feels this "sets an example," for others.
Dr. Gordon also announced that the teachers union will ask its members who are eligible for retirement to notify the district before April 21, when the budget is scheduled to be adopted by the board. The potential retirees by contract do not have to let the district know until July 1. However, if the district has this information in advance, before the spending plan is set, they can deduct those "high end" salaries from the upcoming budget for more savings, and hopefully prevent layoffs. The district is offering a $10,000 incentive to the potential retirees for this early notification, explaining that it costs the district approximately $20,000 to lay off an employee.
So far, Dr. Gordon reported the cuts proposed will not affect programs. Jobs too have not been cut as savings were obtained through attrition (people retiring). He stressed that administration is trying to reduce the budget increase "as humanly as possible."
Assistant Superintendent for Business Mary Callahan had some good news. The county cut a check for the $950,000 it owes the district for the Pall Corporation property PILOT settlement, and it's now in the district's undesignated fund balance.
She also reported that the $1.3 million owed the district from the state for building aid from l989-1994 construction may be brought by Craig Johnson to the floor of the state senate for a vote within the next few weeks. These monies came from reconstructing construction records and the state allowing the district to refile for the building aid for the projects. However, if this does not happen before April 21, when the board will be adopting the budget, this will have to be considered for the following year's budget.
In response to board members asking for further decreases, there was some discussion that some of this additional revenue could be used to offset the tax levy for '09-'10. Board President Larry Greenstein pointed out that while some districts are proposing lower increases in spending, their tax levies could be significantly higher. Ms. Callahan said that she anticipates that Port's tax levy will be at or below the budget-to-budget percentage increase.
Rob Seiden and Jean-Marie Posner asked for percentage spending increases in the 2 to 2.2 range.
In response, the board president asked the administration to take another look at possible reductions and present it to the board at the next meeting, April 21. He said the board will then assess the cost in terms of education to the district.
In the area of state aid revenues, Ms. Callahan had a bit of more good news. There will be no change in state aid from 2008-09 to 2009-10, however, she noted, the projected revenue for 2008 is down slightly.
During the public commentary period, Ms. Esposito asked the board why they could not put forth a zero percent increase in spending as the Port Library did. Dr. Gordon replied that the library is not subject to the federal and state mandates that the district must comply with.
Stan Ronell commented that by and large, Port residents make tremendous sacrifices to live here. He said "people are unemployed. Houses are teetering on foreclosure and some do not have health insurance," and asked the board to "sharpen their pencils a little more."
The next meeting of the board of education is Tuesday, April 21 at 8 p.m. at Schreiber High School