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Monday, July 28, 2014
Rockville Centre school budget proposal must get $1.3M cut
Proposed spending plan exceeds tax cap, needs trimming

With the first draft of the proposed 2013-14 budget revealed last week, the Rockville Centre School District needs to make $1.35 million in cuts in order for the increase in spending to fall below the state property-tax cap.

Robert Bartels, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, presented the Board of Education with the initial budget proposal, totaling just over $102 million, an increase of more than $4.85 million over the current spending plan.

That increase, however, puts the district over the limit for the tax cap. If it were to go ahead with the proposal, it would need a supermajority of at least 60 percent of residents to vote in favor of it. To stay within the boundary of the tax cap, the district must limit the increase in spending to $3.5 million.

“Our goal is to get our expenses to match the limit,” said Superintendent Dr. William Johnson. “We cannot exceed that.”

Salaries, health insurance and retirement contributions are the main cost drivers in the proposed budget, accounting for 80 percent of total spending. But there are new costs beginning next year that are also stretching the district’s purse strings.

Johnson said that the district plans to eliminate the 12R English class at South Side High School and replace it with a senior-level International Baccalaureate English program. The training materials and fees for the course will cost the district about $35,000.

“I think it’s time,” Johnson said. “I think they’re ready, I think we’re ready and I think it’s time.”

The district also wants to expand the I.B. program to South Side Middle School, implementing the I.B. Middle Years Program, which would probably cost around $17,500 and include an $8,500 fee to I.B. for the first few years.

With the state working to implement the new Common Core standards, which will be more rigorous than the current state curriculum, Johnson said that I.B. is a “necessity.”

The Middle Years Program is designed for grades six through 10, but the district plans to implement it only up to grade eight in the coming years. “It’s a framework of teaching,” explained Shelagh McGinn, the principal of SSMS. “It’s teaching our students to be lifelong learners, to be inquirers, understand how they learn and apply it.”

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