Though the Lawrence High School auditorium where Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Jeremy Feder presented the proposed 2019-20 school district budget at the March 11 Board of Education meeting was nearly empty the preliminary promises do not appear hollow.
While the district is tentatively holding the line on spending; the planned $102,449,281 budget is exactly the same as the present fiscal plan, there will be another round of educational and facilities enhancements.
The expected tax levy — the amount of money collected through property taxes — is $85,954,300 and the tax-cap is a decrease of .23 percent. Feder noted that the flat spending increase was achieved by a projected uptick of $700,000 in state aid for a total of $12,880,421, a decrease in pensions costs to offset the staff step increases and a decline in health service revenue.
“We’re excited to be adding Chromebooks for all, which the students will be able to take home,” Feder said, noting the three pillars that guide the budget: safety and security, educational excellence and fiscal responsibility. “They have a Wi-Fi enabled hotspot, so students will be able to continue their education throughout the evening as well,” he said about the Chromebooks.
In addition, there will the purchase of a new “cutting edge” math program for kindergarten through fifth grade, including professional development and training of teachers, summer elementary enrichment and expansion of BOCES vocational programs, Feder said.
The capital projects include the renovation and upgrades to both the Broadway Campus and the high school sports complexes, HVAC air conditioning, improvements to the Broadway Campus main lobby, FEMA projects and continued districtwide security enhancements.
“I think we’re once again supporting the budget with the three pillars to maintain and improve education through a fiscally responsible lens,” said Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen.
Along with the $14.387 million the district was granted earlier this year in Hurricane Sandy money from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and New York State’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Board President Murray Forman said Lawrence is waiting on approval for an additional $15 million, to be used for flood mitigation as after Sandy the high school was shutdown for nearly three months.
“We’re pleased to be able to present a budget that enhances the educational opportunities of our students, funds a robust capital program while not imposing any additional tax burdens on our taxpayers,” Forman said.
Voting on the budget and BOE trustees takes place on Tuesday, May 21 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.