Bellmore-Merrick District adds security, programming in budget


The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District will send a $159.8 million 2018-19 budget to voters on May 15, which includes a tax levy increase of 2.65 percent.

The tax levy increase is gentler than the current year’s, which is 2.98 percent, according to Kate Freeman, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.

The budget includes a 3.98 percent increase over this year’s $153.7 million plan.

Freeman broke the budget down for the Board of Education at its budget adoption meeting on Monday night, citing several challenges the district will face in the 2018-19 academic year, including a $2.7 million increase in employee benefits, a $505,000 increase in debt service on the 2013 facilities bond and nearly flat state aid.

Still, the district will make do. Some programs will be expanding in 2018-19, the district will institute new student health and wellness centers, and a number of new security measures will be put in place, according to Freeman (see sidebar).

Although the district will receive $26.6 million in state education aid — 4 percent more than this year — Freeman said the district was far from receiving its due from the state.

“We need to push back,” she said. “This is the aid promised many years ago ... We should be getting $8 million more than we’re getting now.”

The last time the district received more than a single-digit increase in state aid was the 2016-17 school year, when it got $23.9 million — a 16.5 percent increase over the prior year.

Superintendent John DeTommaso, however, sounded optimistic throughout the presentation, praising the district’s “smart budgeting” over the years. DeTommaso noted the district’s decision to use $1.5 million of its capital reserves each year for regular building and maintenance work, with no further bonding.

“We’ve realized we can work within the budget,” DeTommaso said. “We’ve been knocking these projects off that we did not necessarily knock off in the bond. That’s what good budgeting is.

“It’s so we don’t get into the situation we did five years ago, where the buildings needed $50 million of work,” he said, adding that in the five years since the district took out its capital project bond, $75 million worth of work was completed, between bond proceeds and the budget.

The Central District divides its expenses into three primary categories: administration, program and capital. The 2018-19 budget breaks down as follows:

Administration: $19.4 million, or 12.2 percent of the budget.

Program: $120.5 million, or 75.4 percent.

Capital: $19.9 million, or 12.4 percent.

On the revenue side, the district expects — in addition to the $26.6 million in state aid — to collect a tax levy of $116.9 million, plus $2 million in payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs.

Also, the district will use $5.2 million of its reserves (money set aside in prior years for a specific purpose) and $6.5 million of its fund balance (excess revenues or unspent money collected over the years).