Proposed budget keeps programs, staff

School spending plan kept within state tax cap; vote is next month


The East Meadow School District’s proposed 2014-15 budget will maintain all educational programs, services and staff, according to Superintendent Louis DeAngelo. Adopted by the Board of Education on April 3, the spending plan, which totals $191.1 million, is 1.53 percent larger than the current budget.

The proposal would collect $133.5 million from taxpayers, a tax levy increase of 1.89 percent, which is below what is allowed under the state tax cap in order for the plan to be passed by a simple majority of voters. According to DeAngelo, the district could have had a tax levy increase as high as a 2.24 percent, but chose not to in order to minimize the burden on taxpayers.

The public will vote on the budget on May 20.

Under the proposal, current class sizes will be maintained, and while there will be no new programs, DeAngelo said that the district would continue its plan to update technology in all of its schools. Interactive whiteboards are now used in every classroom in the district’s five elementary schools.

The most challenging part of this year’s budget process, DeAngelo said, was “studying the actual expenditures in significant detail in order to budget the tightest we could in each area.”

But, he added, the district managed to stay within the tax cap because of wise financial planning over the years. Central administration and trustees have a spending plan that always looks five years ahead, the superintendent said. But DeAngelo acknowledged that budgeting is becoming more challenging by the year. “For 2014-15, while we maintained programs, services and staff,” he said, “with each successive year of tax cap constraints, this does become extremely more difficult.”

Nearly two-thirds of the proposal — 65 percent — is earmarked for teachers’ salaries and employee benefits, while 2.86 percent is for administrative salaries. This year the district dedicated a smaller portion of its spending to administrative salaries than any other district in the county, according to SCOPE’s Data Point 2013-2014 edition.

The district is to receive $37.53 million in state aid — including building aid — in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014-15 budget, which was passed by the State Legislature on March 31. That is 3.21 percent more state aid than this year’s total, and $700,000 more than was projected in Cuomo’s preliminary budget proposed earlier this year. While the extra money will be helpful, DeAngelo said, the district will need more in future years to avoid cuts.

“With each continued year of significant tax caps,” he said, “I worry at some point we may not be able to provide all that we have.”

Administrators planned to detail the budget plan this week at PTA meetings, DeAngelo said. On May 8, the district will formally present it to the public at a meeting at the Leon J. Campo Salisbury Center.