While many school districts on Long Island will be cutting programs and staff next year, District 13 is expected to maintain the status quo. In the first budget presentation to the Board of Education and public on Feb. 13, administrators proposed a spending plan that would keep everything in tact.
“We will continue all of our programs as is,” said Superintendent Dr. Adrienne Robb-Fund. “We are very pleased that we don’t have to touch opportunities for students.”
The tentative $44.6 million budget would raise spending by 3.3 percent, or about $1.4 million.
The district’s allowable tax levy increase is 3.89 percent under the tax-cap legislation. The proposed budget meets that figure, meaning that only a simple majority would be needed to pass the budget in May.
District 13 is benefitting from several exclusions that allows it to raise tax collections beyond 2 percent. The district’s tax base has increased, likely from the more units at the Dutchgate senior complex in North Valley Stream coming onto the tax rolls. Also, about a half-million dollars in retirement costs are exempt from the cap, as is some money for capital projects.
Board of Education President Jeanne Greco Jacobs said board members asked administrators to prepare a budget that met the tax cap, while doing their best to maintain programs. They did just that, she explained.
The preliminary budget plan also includes about $488,000 for various capital projects at the four schools. “We do have a close eye on facilities,” Greco Jacobs said, adding that the buildings are aging and can’t be neglected.
Work would include the replacement of several doors at the four schools, blacktop repairs at the Howell Road and Willow Road schools, and the replacement of the Willow Road gymnasium roof. Some of the projects are being funded over two of three budget cycles so the district doesn’t have to borrow money.
It is expected that Nassau County will no longer cover the school portion of tax refunds. District 13 will set aside about $170,000 next year to pay successful challenges. That figure is based on a five-year average of past tax refunds the county has paid back for the district.
“Because we have so little commercial property, this affects us far less than (Districts) 24 and 30,” said Meredith Brosnan, the assistant superintendent for business. “They’re talking millions of dollars, because they have so much commercial property, they tend to be the big settlements, and they tend to take a long time to settle, so the back payments are greater.” In District 13, about 90 percent of the tax levy is paid by homeowners. Tax challenges for single-family homes are typically settled within one year.
After a year of salary freezes for most employees in the district, teachers will have a 1.25 percent increase in September, followed by their longevity-based Step increment in January. Salaries for nurses will rise 1.25 percent, and custodians will get a 1.5 percent increase.
Two classroom teacher positions would be eliminated, however that is based on an expected enrollment drop of 50 to 60 students for next year.
One factor that could affect the budget is a possible mandate in the Affordable Health Care Act that would require the district to offer health insurance to additional employees. Brosnan said that would mean increased costs for the district, but it would most likely not affect the budget until 2014.
The district also has had two safety audits, and recommendations will soon be presented to the school officials. Board members could choose to fund some additional security enhancements.
Christine O’Toole, president of the Wheeler Avenue School PTA, said she is generally happy with the budget that was presented, though she would like to see more money for upkeep of the schools. Specifically, she said the main hallway at Wheeler needs to be painted.
The budget is expected to be adopted by the board at its March business meeting, and it would be put up to a public vote on May 21.