In January, I presented to the Board of Education a first draft of a budget for the 2009-10 school year. The budget proposal contains my recommendations for the new school year, with provisions for maintaining educational programs and sustaining the progress we have made in information technology, capital improvements and other areas.

Given the serious economic climate, we approached the 2009-10 budget in a different way. In prior years, we began the process with a "rollover" budget. This familiar approach entails bringing forward everything in the current budget, adding in known factors such as salary increases, then building in any new programs and initiatives. Normally, this method yields a first draft of the budget that is relatively high, and which is cut back during the course of the board's deliberations in the winter and spring.

Not this year. With so many people struggling to get by, I do not believe it would have been appropriate, even in a preliminary draft of the budget, to suggest a budget increase that would clearly be unacceptable to voters. Therefore, I directed my staff to cut projected spending increases right from the start. The result is a proposed budget-to-budget increase-so far-of 3.68 percent. (Compare this to last year's preliminary rollover budget, which, with some new initiatives, carried an initial increase of 7.85 percent and was eventually lowered to 4.6 percent.) Therefore, as a starting point, we are in a much better position than last year.

The governor's property tax commission, which is headed by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, has recommended that school districts in New York be restricted to a 4 percent annual increase in the tax levy. Even though this recommendation has not yet become law, we are approaching next year's budget almost as if it had. It is incumbent on us to find every reasonable way to reduce spending, and the first draft of the budget demonstrates that this effort has already yielded results.

Of course, as the educational leader of the school district, it is incumbent on me to safeguard the district's instructional excellence. In a short time, we have made some important progress: in elementary reading and writing, middle school foreign language, high school alternative program, summer educational program and professional development. The proposal I have presented to the Board of Education would keep our educational program strong so that we can build on the gains we have already made.

Remember, the only part of the budget process that the school district can control directly is its own spending. We have already taken into account the nearly half-million dollar loss in state aid the governor has proposed for Roslyn in next year's state budget. Changes in property assessments and base proportions, which are determined by Nassau County, also can have a significant impact on homeowners' tax bills. Furthermore, the years beyond 2009-10 may be at least as challenging as the budget cycle we are entering now. As I have noted in previous letters to the community, the district is in a good position to weather the current crisis. Nonetheless, we are aiming to present a budget to voters in May that reflects the economic situation.

It is very important to note that while the administrative staff of the district has been busy preparing budget proposals over the last few months, the board's deliberations on the budget are just beginning. The community will have numerous opportunities to add their voice to the budget process. The agendas for all board meetings are posted on the district website, so residents may know when budget discussions are being scheduled. A number of open forums are already planned for the spring, some hosted by our parent organizations, so that residents may learn more about the proposed budget. For the benefit of our children and their future, I encourage residents to stay informed and provide their constructive input.

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