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Jericho BOE Discusses Tax Cap, Budget Vote

Superintendent Grishman urges community to attend next Budget Workshop session

The Jericho Board of Education (BOE), along with dozens of other districts across Long Island, is facing the difficult task of passing the 2012-13 school budget despite New York State’s new two percent property tax cap.

The cap, which was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in June, limits the increase in property taxes each year for school districts and local municipalities to just two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, excluding certain exemptions. What will all this mean for Jericho residents as they prepare to vote on their local school budget in May 2012?

For starters, there will be new terminology to understand and new ways that schools will have to present budget information in conjunction with this law. One thing seems certain- the new tax cap legislation is likely to complicate the struggle to find meaningful tax relief and to sustain world-class schools.

The property tax cap law poses an enormous challenge for public schools, and administrators need to hear from their communities to help guide them through the difficult decisions that will need to be made. With the property tax cap in mind, the Jericho Board of Education has been regularly communicating with PTA, staff, and residents since October regarding budget development.

The second budget workshop on Jan. 26 in the middle school library outlined some of the district’s options as it moves forward with budget planning for the 2012-13 year.

Victor Manuel, Jericho’s Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs, presented to the board and crowd of over 50 Jericho teachers, parents, and residents in attendance, a look at the budget process, recent administrative consolidations, and several other cost-saving measures recommended for the 2012-13 budget. The recommended reductions are as follows: consolidation of High/Middle School Assistant Principal, (which was completed earlier this school year), absorb at least three clerical positions through attrition, not replacing three teaching retirees, elimination of part-time clerical from Central Office, absorb one cleaner through attrition, excess one additional cleaner, reduce custodial overtime, reduce three literacy aides, reduce one FLES teacher (from 3 to 2), reduce one elementary science teacher (from 3 to 2), reduce two special education facilitators, reduce one speech therapist, eliminate part-time music teacher, reduce .5 FTE (full-time equivalent) guidance staff, eliminate LI Philharmonic and Fashion Show, reduce Arts in education assemblies, reduce middle school clubs/intramurals, reduce field trips and one Middle School teacher due to enrollment. The special education co-teaching model will expand in current grade levels district-wide, and expand to the 10th grade.

Other savings will look to be found in utilities/energy, and classes at the high school and middle school levels are recommended to not run with fewer than 17 students, unless the class is part of a required sequence. Additional reductions are recommended in early high school and after-school transportation and elementary services such as video and newspaper. Manuel also announced that some recent administrative consolidations included the elimination of an assistant principal position, consolidations in clerical staff, the combination of Music and Art curriculum associates, and the Director of Instructional Technology being replaced with a Data Manager.

Later in the evening, Ed Friedlander, the District’s Executive Director for Special Education, and John Castronova, Jericho’s Curriculum Associate for Special Education, noted the importance of preserving services for students with special needs and learning disabilities.

“We are very fortunate to provide a full continuum of service here in Jericho,” Castronova said. “We have a really strong department, and a great relationship between the Special Education department and the general education departments. Because of all that coordination and hard work- the relationships we have with students, parents and everyone involved- we have incredible results.”

Jericho Superintendent Henry Grishman capped off the meeting by urging the Jericho community to attend the next Budget Workshop session, scheduled for early next month in the Middle School Library. “Workshop No. 3 is in two weeks,” Grishman added. “It’ll be Wednesday, Feb. 8, to discuss general instruction, technology, transportation and benefits. Workshop No. 3 is where we go through our main instructional budget, which is probably the most significant part of our expenditure budget.”