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Superintendent's Column: Budget Will Not Compromise Instruction

Those of us who spend our careers in the field of education don’t ever imagine that we will ever have to confront the kinds of fiscal pressures that school districts are facing right now. Our focus is on children, and providing the best education we can for them. As I wrote at the beginning of the budget process, districts are facing some of the most difficult budget circumstances in decades. In Roslyn, our approach to building the 2010-11 budget has been to maintain the strength of our educational program, while fully acknowledging and addressing the economic times we are living in.

The good news is that I think we’ve achieved that balance very effectively. We have managed to keep the budget increase to approximately 1 percent for the second year in a row, with a tax levy increase even lower than that, at 0.66 percent. This will be among the lowest increases on Long Island. And we have been able to do it without resorting to cuts in programs, increases in class sizes or any other changes that would have been directly felt in the classroom. All of the major instructional initiatives that we have introduced over the last couple of years — in literacy, technology, foreign language, alternative education and others — will continue into 2010-11.

One of the most important factors in being able to stay the course is the new agreement between the district and its teachers, which was announced in March. Education is labor intensive, and the vast majority of the expense of a school district is in its people. By freezing the teacher salary schedule in 2010-11, and increasing the teachers’ contributions for health insurance, among many other measures, we have been able to realize immediate savings that will have a positive impact not only on next year’s budget, but in the years to come, as well.

This is critical, because a few more difficult years are likely to lie ahead. I am confident that we will weather those challenges in the same way that we have been able to control the budget this year: by maintaining a strong fiscal position with excellent budget management and healthy reserves, fostering a collaborative relationship with our staff, and holding fast to a long tradition of educational excellence.

One of the other priorities that we continue to address is the district’s infrastructure. For the last several years, with strong support from the district’s voters, we have embarked on a comprehensive program of capital improvements that not only protects the community’s investment in its school facilities but also, I hope, rebuilds a sense of pride in our schools. On May 18, there will be a special proposition on the ballot authorizing the Board of Education to continue this program by expending funds from the Capital Reserve Fund for a number of important projects: rehabilitation of the high school cafeteria and the field house, replacement of windows and doors, bathroom renovations in each of the schools, asphalt and sidewalk repair, and roof repairs. There is no additional cost to taxpayers in 2010-11, as funds have been set aside previously just for this purpose.

As we balance our fiscal and instructional priorities, my commitment to you is that your children’s education will remain the most important focus of my job. As you review the proposed budget, I hope you’ll come to agree that we’ve kept the best of our educational program while also being fair to our taxpayers during a very difficult period. Please remember to vote on May 18 at Roslyn High School.