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Westbury BOE: $115 Million Preliminary Budget

Current contingent budget is approximately $109 million

On Jan. 19, Westbury School District Superintendent Dr. Constance Clark-Snead and Assistant Superintendent Mary Lagnado presented updated preliminary budget options for the 2012-2013 school year, which included $850,000 in newly received State aid.

Lagnado presented three options to the public, with options one representing a 2.66 percent increase, option two reflecting the 2 percent tax cap levy and option three a zero percent increase as a result of a failed budget.

The New York State Governor property tax cap legislation limits the increase in property taxes each year for a school district to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. If a community chooses to increase taxes more than the tax cap allows, a 60 percent vote in a school budget vote can override it.

“We’re working with how much revenue we have and what that revenue gives us in an expenditure budget. The budget is a living document, it keeps evolving, the closer we get to May the more accurate these numbers are,” said Lagnado.

Option one is $114,919,459, which at the current phase in the budget development, represents a 2.66 percent increase. Option two represents the 2 percent State-mandated cap at $111,754,933. The board will decide on either option one or two, or a combination of cuts from both, before the budget vote on May 15.

Option three would factor in a zero percent increase where the district would have to make approximately $4.5 million in cuts. The district would likely reduce its pre-k program to half day and lose summer school and athletics altogether if the budget fails. Option one, if passed, would incorporate nearly $2.6 million in cuts, and option two would mean approximately $3.1 million in cuts.

“We need every single person that we have, every counselor, every social worker. We spend a lot of money in our music program, why would we want to cut that? Why would we want to cut athletics? It is not what I want to do, but we have to meet the law,” said Dr. Clark-Snead, who noted that the only way to reduce the budget it through personnel.

Lagnado said that instruction and employee benefits are the “two main items that are driving the budget increase,” as instruction increases by approximately $3.3 million (5.19 percent) from 2011-2012 and employee benefits increase by around $1.7 million (7.34 percent) from the previous budget. Those two items account for 84 percent of the increase of the rollover budget, said Lagnado.

Many audience members commented on how the particular areas of cuts were decided on within the three options.

“There can be a combination of cuts from all three options. These cuts that we see in the listing, they can be switched around, and it’s also not limited to things that may not be on here. The things that are here are the district’s best professional opinion as to what can be cut and still maintain the educational integrity of the district,” said board vice president Rodney Caines.

Dr. Clark-Snead said the two percent cap is going to be “drastic” for not only Westbury, but also for all districts across New York State.

 “It’s sad, and it’s not going to get any better. If we have two more years of zero, it’s going to be devastating for our district, and our children don’t deserve that,” said the superintendent.

The next public budget hearing is Thursday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Westbury High School’s Little Theater.