Those who attended Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting entered the middle school auditorium unsure of what the 2014-15 district budget’s final spending and tax levy numbers would be, even though the board was set to adopt a spending plan that night.
Trustees finalized a $130 million budget with a tax levy increase of 3.24 percent — $677,000 smaller than the “rollover” spending plan the district initially proposed in October, when the budgeting process began. But none of the details of that plan changed until two weeks ago, when trustees announced that they were not happy with the level of cuts and asked administrators to come up with more.
Last week, at a board work session, the administration presented those cost-saving options: cut the field trip and BOCES Arts in Education budgets, scale back language and elementary health programs, replace English as a Second Language co-teachers with teaching assistants, increase the cost of school lunches, reduce the copying and paper budget, reduce social studies academic intervention services at the high school, and eliminate the contract with Long Beach Reach for drug and alcohol social work services. These cuts, which were not finalized until Tuesday, amounted to $712,000 in savings.
“None of [those cuts] eliminate any programs,” Superintendent of Schools David Weiss said. “We did tighten programs, but none were eliminated.”
A $100,000 grant for the district, recently secured by Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, provided the funds to restore the contract with Long Beach Reach and to support other programs, but not the ones on the chopping block. Weiss said that Weisenberg wanted the grant to be used for drug and alcohol counseling, as well as after-school activities. With the Long Beach Reach contract restored, the cuts now total $677,000, bringing the total budget to just over $130 million, 5.07 percent larger than the current spending plan.