The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s 2014-15 budget is set to rise by 1.97 percent, from $136.5 million this year to a little more than $139 million next year. And, despite a lower-than-hoped-for state aid increase of $200,000, the district does not plan to cut services for students. In fact, it is restoring some services such as BOCES dance, which had been cut during the leanest years of the 2008-09 recession and its aftermath.
Next year, the Central District is slated to receive almost $18.7 million in state aid for education, up from $18.5 million this year, said Cynthia Strait Régal, Bellmore-Merrick’s deputy superintendent for business.
As is the case with most school districts, Bellmore-Merrick divides its expenses into three primary categories: administration, instruction and capital. Instruction primarily goes toward teachers’ salaries, while capital pays for ongoing maintenance. The 2014-15 budget breaks down as follows:
•Administration: $17.6 million
•Instruction: $108.5 million
•Capital: $12.9 million.
Next year the Central District plans to send two dance students to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ Long Island High School for the Arts in Syosset, much to the relief of dance parents, who had criticized the district’s decision to cut funding for the program.
Régal, however, noted that the state’s 2 percent tax-levy cap is limiting the district’s ability to expand programs for students at a time when the state Department of Education is increasing learning requirements under the new Common Core State Standards. The DOE rolled out the standards last spring, with 70 percent of students in grades three to eight failing to meet year-end standardized testing requirements across the state.
In 2014-15, Régal said, the Central District cannot raise its tax levy –– the total amount that it must collect in property taxes to meet expenses –– by more than 1.88 percent, according to the cap enacted by Governor Cuomo in June 2011. As a result, she said, the district cannot provide any more student services than it already offers.
Calling next year’s spending plan “a status-quo budget,” Régal said, “It’s not so much a [question] of what we want to do or what we need to do, but what we can do.”
Régal noted that the Central District has among the lowest per-pupil expenditure figures in Nassau County, with only a handful of districts coming in with lower numbers. Bellmore-Merrick spends $21,294 per student, per year. By contrast, Sewanhaka, Valley Stream and Wantagh’s per-pupil spending is lower, ranging from $18,000 to $20,000 per student. Syosset, Great Neck and Jericho all spend more, from $29,000 to $33,000 per pupil.