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Thursday, September 18, 2014
W.H. stays under tax cap
Howard Schwach

West Hempstead school officials will not have to persuade 60 percent of school district voters to approve a school budget that exceeds the allowable property tax cap, district officials say. That’s because the Board of Education adopted a budget on April 16 totaling $55.6 million, an increase of just 0.88 percent over the current spending plan — which will keep the property tax levy below 3.55 percent, the state’s limit for the district.

While many believe that the state’s property tax cap law holds increases to a strict 2 percent, Superintendent John Hogan said that is not necessarily so.

“I always want to share with everybody that what has been portrayed as a 2 percent tax cap is, in fact, a misnomer,” Hogan said at the meeting. “I don’t know if there is any school district in Nassau County, never mind Suffolk or even throughout the state, that actually is at 2 percent. You are allowed to build back in, as I like to put it, certain expenses, whether they be capital projects or those sorts of things that allow us to go a little bit above 2 percent.”

Hogan said that the budget, helped by the restoration of state aid, will allow the district to restore two secondary teaching positions and one elementary position. This will keep average class sizes in the middle school and high school in the 25 to 30 range, said Richard Cunningham, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.

The restoration of “high tax” and other aid, he said, gave the district about $400,000 more to work with. “It wasn’t enough to restore the nine-period day,” Cunningham said, “but it was enough to address areas that residents involved in the budget café program were concerned about, such as growing class sizes in the secondary schools.”

Doing away with the ninth period had the beneficial effect of adding five minutes to the other periods, giving teachers more time with their students. Nonetheless, Cunningham said, “It pained us to do away with the ninth period. We don’t know if we’ll ever be able to return to the extra period, because we don’t know if the money will ever be there again.”

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