Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 18 February 2011 00:00
Carle Place Superintendent of Schools David Flatley, along with his administrative team, led fellow staff and community members in attendance at the school’s auditorium through a preliminary budget rollout on Saturday, Feb. 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Flatley, whose team offered presentations on taxes, technology, BOCES and staffing, announced that the district is proposing a 2.08 percent budget-to-budget increase from the current year to next.
“The budget that was originally put together as a recommendation by our administrative team was significantly higher than that – about 4.7 percent – so we needed to find quite a bit of savings between that point in time,” said Flatley, who explained that the 2.08 percent figure was reached after finding “somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 of savings.”
The superintendent reiterated wanting to “strike a good balance for our community” based on “needs of students and ability of community to support goals.” He also added that 99 percent of the past graduating class attended college and all but one completed necessary graduation requirements.
The “one-shot” budget rollout, Flatley explained, replaced the old method of separate presentations over the course of several board of education meetings.
“We decided that in the middle of February, two months away from the adoption of the budget, we would attempt to present a recommended budget in its entirety and then give people an opportunity to influence change in those recommendations,” said Flatley.
He also added that the new format was enacted to, “Allow our board of education, who is ultimately responsible for adopting the budget, have enough time to consider those recommendations in a much less pressured way.”
The superintendent walked the community though the color-coded budget and took questions from residents after highlighting and explaining specific areas of interest.
Flatley noted the Nassau County sewer tax, which is being imposed for the first time, would cost the district around $60,000. He also explained that the district would have to put aside a certain amount of money, likely for next year’s budget, to pay back the county tax certiorari regarding assessment errors.
“That money’s got to come from someplace … whether you agree with that or don’t agree with that, we have to account for the possibility of paying that fee in some point in the future,” he said, and noted a rough estimate that the tax certiorari charge on the budget may approach three million dollars a year.
A pair of increases in the budget includes a replacement piece of equipment in Rushmore Avenue School, which blows up images on regular size paper into poster size, and a new driver’s education vehicle for the high school.
The recommendation for an additional special education program in Cherry Lane yielded the need for additional aides on buses, an approximate $8,500 increase that’s currently in negotiation.
Another increase includes a new testing system for instructors, which the district will offer more information on during a presentation on March 7 at 8 p.m. at Rushmore. A grant-funded pilot for the program is being launched this coming spring.
One decrease in the budget came as a result of the BOCES Long Island High School for the Arts being eliminated, which Flatley noted would save the school upwards of $50,000.
Coaching salaries in the district are also being reduced by nearly $30,000 and the district plans on combining the seventh- and eighth-grade middle school athletic teams into one.
“There are associated savings with that in other places in the budget, for instance, the amount of money that we pay BOCES for officials for contests is reduced, and there are some significant transportation savings as well, so the total savings for that program’s reduction is approximately $45,000,” said Flatley.
Transportation to certain private high schools, Flatley recommended, will be provided via public transportation and will provide slightly over $200,000 in savings.
“That could be buses, that could even be trains. For instance, for the guys who leave Carle Place every morning to go to Chaminade, if they choose to take the Long Island Rail Road from the Carle Place train station to the Mineola train station, which is basically in Chaminade’s backyard, they could do that and we’ll pay for it, as opposed to a yellow school bus,” said Flatley.
He noted that there are also fewer kids going to private and parochial schools, but for the schools that are not easily accessible via public transportation (e.g. St. Dominic’s in Oyster Bay), traditional school buses will still be available.
Regarding his salary, which he explained Newsday had reported at a “significantly higher” number, was negotiated at $214,000 and is $13,474 less than last year’s figure.
One resident inquired regarding postage costs for the district and cited receiving duplicate documents for multiple children attending the same school. She recommended a preference option to opt out of mailers and receive emails instead.
Flatley responded in saying that the district is required by law to send traditional mail in certain instances but he is very interested in making report cards and progress reports available only online.
Another resident asked about “special projects” on the budget, and Flatley explained that area included new fireproof curtains in the Rushmore auditorium (required by state), a new Cherry Lane master clock system, upgrades in the security cameras, painting, carpets and flooring, annual asbestos removal and air conditioning replacements.
Asked about county and state requirements, Flatley noted that the district is currently one of several districts throughout the county filing lawsuits to stop the sewer tax and fight against the tax certiorari.
One resident spoke regarding the athletic programs at the district and dwindling enrollment affecting competitiveness. He pondered combining all sports with Wheatley – not just boys football and lacrosse.
Another attendee was disappointed that the school isn’t making more small cuts across the board, citing teacher salaries as an example. She also spoke regarding the elderly and unemployed within the district and the difficulties they’ll face if the budget increases. Trustee Barry Dennis spoke on a similar note, saying how frustrated residents are taking cuts or freezes in salaries and how that’s not being reflected in schools.
Flatley, along with board president Peter Fitzgerald, thanked the community for their input and recommendations.
Presentations from the rollout are now available online at the schools website, http://www.cps.k12.ny.us/, on the lower right hand side under the link, “2011-12 Budget Information.”