At its April 3 meeting, the Roslyn School District Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the most stringent budget the district has seen in years.
In response to current economic conditions, the BOE approved a budget that calls for a spending increase of less than 1 percent and a projected tax levy of 1.3 percent. Total spending amounts to $94,751,350. Voters in the Roslyn School District will vote on the budget in the May 19 election.
According to district officials, the BOE began budget deliberations in January with the goal of keeping the budget increase below 4 percent. However, worsening economic conditions forced the BOE to seek additional spending reductions. District officials said that reductions would take place in numerous budget areas, including staffing, employee benefits, maintenance, furniture, equipment, and supplies. The reductions, officials added, total nearly $3 million. They do not include the elimination of any academic programs. As a result, the budget-to-budget increase, officials said, is 0.6 percent.
In addition to the budget, the BOE will place a special measure, Proposition 3, on the May 19 ballot. Proposition 3, district officials said, would authorize the BOE to expend $938,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund for capital projects that will be initiated next year. District officials emphasized that Proposition 3, if approved, would not increase taxes in the 2009-10 school year, as such funds have already been set aside.
While presenting the budget, the BOE has touted several specifics, including no increases in the Technology Budget and the possibility of moving towards a "paperless district," one where cost savings could run up to $120,000.
District officials also noted that state aid and ERATE aid could, combined, increase to $220,000 this year. Budget information released by the district highlighted interior and exterior building projects, energy initiative, capital budget plans, and new courses at Roslyn High School.
For the first time since the embezzlement crisis hit the school district several years ago, the budget proceedings, due to current economic conditions, have come under intense scrutiny by many residents in the school district.
Budget hearings have been packed with concerned parents and residents. Letters to the editor in The Roslyn News have called on BOE members to eliminate all the "fluff" they can from any proposed budget. Residents have criticized the school district for a "poorly negotiated" contract with district employees, while calling into question overall budget increases for a district which has approximately the same number of students that it did three years ago.
In addition, school district residents have criticized the superintendent's salary, the teachers' union medical insurance plans, employee pensions, the administrative budget, and such specific spending proposals on interscholastic athletics, plus the Materials and Supplies and Field Trips segments of the budget. In all, residents have called on the district to operate with the same "belt tightening" measures that the average resident must operate under.
The budget hearings have also included district employees, who came in support of the proposed budget.
In addition to the budget vote and Proposition 3, the May 19 election will include a vote on the 2009-10 Bryant Library budget, plus the BOE elections. Incumbent members Dani Kline, Ron Smith, and David Seinfeld are up for re-election. So far, only one challenger, Philip Weiden, has served the necessary papers to run for the BOE. Monday, April 20 is the deadline for challengers to file for the May 19 election.