The tax-levy cap for the Hewlett-Woodmere School District is estimated to be 2.1 percent for the 2014-15, according to district administrators, who also said that spending could increase by about $2 million from the $97.1 budget.
Possible spending increases include a 13.6 percent jump in building maintenance, which was discussed during a preliminary budget session on Feb. 26.
The maintenance cost estimates for the upcoming school year are generated through a carry-over of specific building projects, which includes expenses from security at the high school and education center, to the facilities and operations of these buildings, said Dr. Peter Weber, the assistant superintendent of business. “Certain work, as in the piping and pumps, were not properly connected in the buildings,” Weber said. “A lot of work wasn’t finished.”
Hewlett-Woodmere has seven capital project on the table: four projects under review that were funded from 2012-2013 and three under review from this school year, said Barbara Giese, district spokeswoman. “We are still in budget review for next year, but there will be additional projects up for consideration,” Giese said. “Nothing can be funded from 2014-2015 yet as it must be voter approved.”
The levy cap is determined and set by the school district. It is calculated based on formulas created by the Office of the State Comptroller and State Education Department guidelines, said Weber. “The two percent number comes from a portion of the [state] legislation,” Weber said, explaining that tax levy is limited to either two percent or a cost of living adjustment depending on which one is less. “For the coming year that [cost of living] value is 1.46 percent.” If the lower value was applied the district would have to use its reserves to make up for the shortfall in taxes.
Maintaining and updating programs in a cost-effective manner is something district officials are working on, Weber said. “Payroll expense is the largest portion of any school district budget,” he said. “Managing this expense has been, and will continue to be, central in the effort to support our schools in a time of resource constraints. With a conservative use of reserves we fully expect to come to a budget that the community will understand and support.”
State aid is estimated to be seven percent of Hewlett-Woodmere’s proposed budget. The initial state aid proposals from the governor continue to fail to address prior reductions, Weber said. “As final state aid numbers are likely to rise by the time the state budget is approved since this is an election year, the state’s failure to meet its responsibilities to fund public education across Long Island certainly increases the burden on our homeowners,” he said.
The district’s March 9 budget forum is open to the public. It will be in the auditorium of the Woodmere Education Center at 1 Johnson Place in Woodmere beginning at 9 a.m.