With state aid flat, school heads propose small tax-levy increase

Posted

Residents will cast their votes on the 2019-20 Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District budget on May 21. The $163 million spending plan calls for a 2.17 percent tax-levy increase — smaller than last year’s 2.65 percent hike.

Some $119.4 million of the budget must be raised from taxes. The district will receive only a modest, 2.9 percent increase in state aid — last year it got a 4 percent bump, and even then, officials said, the district was owed far more.

Kate Freeman, the assistant superintendent for business, and Business Administrator Mikaela Coni broke down the budget for parents on April 3.

Freeman said that the spending plan is $3.2 million — 2.2 percent — larger than this year’s. However, the increase is less than what many other Nassau County school districts are asking for this year, according to Freeman.

Coni divided the budget into three sections: administrative, program and capital expenditures, which account for 12, 75 and 13 percent of proposed spending, respectively.

Freeman told parents that for the first time, a coding and robotics program would be offered to eighth-graders, and that the district would hire two full-time Chinese language teachers, two full-time psychologists for the middle school wellness centers, a social worker for Calhoun High School and special education chairs for each building.

Also included in the budget is a new Bellmore-Merrick electrical training program that Superintendent John DeTommaso said he was excited to see. The program, he explained, would be an option for students who may not plan to attend college for careers as electricians.

“We’re starting to recognize kids who may not see their path as going to college,” DeTommaso said. “We’re as proud of those kids as ones who are getting into some of the finest schools in the country. This is going to be another option.”

The 450-hour program would be offered through a partnership with the Electrical Training Center, which trains electricians on Long Island, DeTommaso explained. Citing the career paths created by programs such as Calhoun’s On Tour, Kennedy’s culinary education and the district’s broadcast journalism training, DeTommaso said that the electrical training program would give students another “state of the art” option. Graduates of the program would receive certificates of completion, giving them a leg up on joining the field.

The capital portion of the spending plan also includes a full renovation of the Brookside School auditorium, which DeTommaso said is “falling apart.”

“It’s used by every district in the Bellmores and Merricks — for plays, for concerts, for graduation,” he said. It “needs to be done. More than any of our other buildings, this auditorium is the community’s auditorium.”

Additional renovations are proposed for both Calhoun and Mepham High School, but residents would not be responsible for the costs. Instead, the district would use $1.9 million of its capital reserve fund (see box).

Meanwhile, the district’s wellness centers, which offer students in the high schools the guidance of social workers and psychiatrists, continue to flourish, DeTommaso said. “It has been so successful, this partnership we have with South Oaks and Northwell,” he said. “It’s been amazing for our community and amazing for our students and families.”

Residents are encouraged to attend the May 8 Board of Education meeting at Brookside school to share their thoughts on the budget.

Erik Hawkins contributed to this story.

This article has been updated with  more precise statistics and information.