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Point Of No Return For Elmont School District Budget

Budget revote set for June 19

The Elmont School District (ESD) 2012-13 budget vote received more ‘yes’ than ‘no’ votes on Tuesday, May 15. Yet…it wasn’t enough.

ESD needed 60 percent of voter approval to pass its budget for next year and fell just short. The Elmont district will give it a second go around on Tuesday, June 19.

ESD is proposing a $78,560,346 budget for the 2012-13 school year for a second time on June 19. The budget calls for a 2.8 percent increase in spending over the 2011-12 budget. A 6.9 percent tax levy increase is reflected in the budget.

District Superintendent Al Harper revealed that no changes have been made to the budget since it failed two weeks ago. If the budget fails for a second time, a zero percent budget increase would ensue.

The district could have reduced the budget by $2.5 million in time for the second budget vote. Elmont would have had to slash the budget by an additional $3.4 million, but deep program cuts would be required. A second failed budget could include teacher layoffs, which would increase class size and possible increases in school lunch prices, the elimination of full-time kindergarten and after-school/ summer enrichment programs.

State retirement contributions have increased 15 percent from the 2011-12 school year to the current budget. The proposed budget also showcases an 11 percent increase in health insurance expenses.

“If people are going to be unhappy, I want them to understand that they can make an educated decision,” Harper said. ‘We’re a school district that spends very little money. We’re very frugal with every nickel that we spend as we try to provide high quality education to our children.”

Concerning state aid in 2012-13, ESD’s help totaled at $18,606,457, a $5,594 decrease from last year. Mandated increases ($1,742,285) for medical insurance and pension rate increases continue to hold back the district. The budget also requires an additional $3.1 million in funding for special education services.

Elmont’s district enrolls about 3,700 students, and is one of the Island’s most racially and ethnically diverse. There is little commercial property, so taxes fall mostly on homes.

Elmont has scheduled community meetings to discuss its budget, with one scheduled for 8 p.m. June 12 at Dutch Broadway Elementary School. Some residents say that forum might help win over voters angered by a branch library closing in the area, a move not related directly to the school budget.

“These meetings are an effort on behalf of the school district to go to communities where we didn’t do well in the budget vote and hopefully present the budget to a larger group of voters,” Harper stated. “It was something that was initiated by the district and we want the budget to be informed as much as possible.”

Not everyone is on board with the second budget vote.

“I’m very angry with the school district,’’ Elmont resident Pat Nicolosi said. “They’re pushing an almost 7 percent tax increase? Unreal. What are they going to do next year? They say they don’t have a huge business district, so homeowners have to pick up the brunt of it. Everyone is living within their means and I think the Elmont School District should do the same.”

Nicolosi is active in the Elmont community and sits on the Elmont Library Board. He said he would still vote ‘no’ on the budget vote.

“Every year it’s a different excuse,” Nicolosi said. “New York State spends the most in the United States on education. Young people are leaving the state. I hate to say it, but I’m forced to vote no.”