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Friday, October 31, 2014
Good news, bad news for Oceanside schools
Howard Schwach

Oceanside residents will vote on May 21 for a budget that meets “the appropriate cap of 3.47 percent” and therefore will not need a supermajority of 60 percent to be adopted, said Lou Frontario, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.

Frontario said that the district’s tax levee is $114.83 million and that he was happy to report that all the district’s services, both instructional and related services, will be retained and that the guidelines for class size will be retained as well.

Frontario says that is the good news for 2013-2014.

The bad news, he says, is that the district continues to use vital reserves to bring present budgets into balance.

“I always show people at our budget road shows that we had to use $1.25 million from our reserves this year,” Frontario told the Herald this week. “$1.1 million of those reserves come from our TRS retirement fund, another 500,000 from workers’ comp reserves. Using those reserves this year works, but what’s going to happen when those reserves run out? We will not be sustainable unless we got our from under this draconian tax cap rule that the state makes us operate under.”

“The scary part is that we are robbing Peter to pay Paul and in three years we are going to be standing on the edge of the cliff,” he added.

He urged the politicians in Albany to “wake up and realize that the schools can’t operate with adequate funding.”

“We spend $3,800 less per pupil than the Nassau County average,” he said. “To many residents, we make it look easy, but it is not. “We make it look easy because we have reserves. Many school systems do not.”

“I’m trying to be upbeat about this,” Frontario said. “I see great things happening in the schools, great educational things that we can be proud of. That gives me solace.”

He points to the new middle school I-Pad initiative as one of the innovations.

The district piloted the use of the electronic devices with a class in the middle school this year. Next year, every student in the middle school will get an I-Pad to use.

“They are really instructional learning tools, not just electronic textbooks,” he said. They allow the students to take command of their learning. They feed into the Common Core Standards and the new state testing mandates.”

He points out that the money to buy the technology is financed, so that it is spread out over five years.

“There will be a meeting to address the budget at the high school auditorium on Skillman Street at 7:30 p.m. on May 7. The budget vote is set for May 21 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the high school.

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