District 24 Board of Education members got their first look at a budget proposal that would maintain programs and class sizes next year, while meeting the property tax cap.
Superintendent Dr. Edward Fale and Assistant Superintendent Dan Onorato unveiled their draft budget proposal at the board’s work session on Feb. 6. Spending would rise 2.81 percent under the $28.5 million plan that is still in its preliminary stages.
Based upon the formula used for calculating a district’s property tax levy limit, District 24 can increase its total tax collections by 2.2 percent next year and still have the budget pass with a simple majority. Onorato said the proposal he and Fale presented last week calls for that exact tax increase, which would translate into about $100 more per year for the average homeowner.
In order to offset further increases and avoid cutting programs, the district would use $3.05 million from its reserves toward next year’s budget, the same amount it is using this year. “Each year we’re giving back money,” Fale said.
District 24 would get about $5.4 million in state aid under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal, though that figure could change when the state budget is finalized in the spring.
Board of Education President Tony Iadevaio said that while District 24 is expected to get an increase in aid next year, it’s not enough given all the mandates that schools are faced with. “The aid that we have is not adequate enough to keep all of our programs in tact,” he said.
After a freeze on teacher salaries this year, raises will be given again next year. Teachers will receive a 1.25 percent increase in September, along with their longevity-based Step increment next January. Those increases will add more than $400,000 to the budget in salaries and payroll taxes.
Like other districts, pension expenses are soaring in District 24. Its retirement contribution costs will rise by about $537,000 next year. The district is also putting aside $200,000 to pay tax refunds, as it is expected that Nassau County will no long cover the tab for school districts next year.
Health insurance costs are also expected to rise, but the amount is unknown right now. Fale said those increases could have implications on the budget going forward, especially on staffing levels, but a decision on that is still weeks away. Potential cuts all depend on how much that increase is, he said, adding that district officials are hoping to avoid the elimination of positions.
Fale said the district might add security guards at the three elementary schools. Recommendations from a security audit will be presented to the board at the Feb. 27 meeting, which could also add costs to the budget.
The Board of Education will continue to discuss the tentative budget over the next several weeks, and it is expected to adopt a proposed spending plan at the end of March. The public will have its say on the budget on May 21.