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Long Beach school board floats $142M budget

Trustees vote to adopt spending plan

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Long Beach School District officials proposed a $142 million budget for the 2019-20 school year at the March 28 Board of Education meeting, a $2.5 million increase over the current spending plan.

The district expects to receive about $24.1 million in state aid, according to Chief Operating Officer Michael DeVito, who presented the proposal. He said that state funding would increase by about $409,000 over the current year. The funds are part of a statewide increase in school aid of more than $1 billion since last year, according State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who helped secure the funding.

“Providing a high-quality education for our children is my top priority, and strengthening the school district is central to ensuring that Long Beach remains a wonderful place to live and raise a family,” Kaminsky said in a statement. "I am proud to have helped secure more funding for Long Beach schools so that our students can have the best learning opportunities available. Importantly, the more money we secure from Albany, the less hardworking Long Beach taxpayers are called on to shoulder the financial burden."

The boost in state aid would help offset costs next year, DeVito said. The proposed tax levy, or the amount the district needs to raise through property taxes, is about $104 million, an increase of about $2 million over the current year.

About $34.2 million of spending would fund employee benefits, an increase of only about $32,000. DeVito explained that an increase in health insurance premiums would be offset by a decrease in the retirement system’s employer contribution costs.

In addition to staffing changes presented at previous school board meetings, school officials said that the district would eliminate five department liaisons at the high school and add a new K-12 math director. When board Trustee Perry Bodnar, who is up for re-election this year, questioned the move, Schools Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Gallagher said that the extra layers of administrative oversight the liaisons provided weren’t necessary.

The proposed budget for the technology department is about $2.8 million, school officials said, an increase of about $514,000 over the current year. Changes include the installation of 74 new Smart Boards, the distribution of 300 Google Chromebooks and 300 iPads for elementary classrooms, a districtwide security upgrade, the creation of innovation labs in the elementary schools, the renovation of computer labs in the Lindell and East elementary schools, and the first phase of a phone system upgrade at the Nike work-based learning center and the transportation department for improved security and customer service, respectively.

“We renovated computer labs at Lindell and East, and they look beautiful, if you haven’t seen them,” Patrick Kiley-Rendon, the director of instructional technology, said at the meeting. “They’re much more modern than they used to look and much more student-friendly.”

Changes in the technology department include continuing the replacement of some damaged Chromebooks, as well as funding a new “eRate” project, a federal program that “reimburses the costs for connectivity-related projects based on the district poverty rate,” DeVito explained. The program would provide an access point in every instructional space — including classrooms, auditoriums and cafeterias — to ensure smoother, more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity.

DeVito said that the $558,605 needed to replace the aging wireless access points throughout the district and implement the eRate project would come from a shift of funds from the pre-kindergarten budget line and reductions in other departments, because the district needs to cover the cost upfront before it can be reimbursed for half of it.

The proposed budget for the interscholastic athletics department is about $1.4 million, an increase of about $86,000 over the current year, DeVito said, adding that most of the increase can be attributed to a new salary schedule and stipend increases for coaches.

The board adopted the budget at its meeting on Thursday. The public will vote on the proposal on May 21.

To date, the school district said that only one candidate, Annie Conway, has taken out a candidate’s packet to run in this year’s school board race, in which only Bodnar is up for re-election. The deadline to file petitions is May 1.