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East Meadow budget stays within tax cap

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The East Meadow School District is gearing up for its budget vote and recently sent out its concise budget newsletter as residents prepare to mail in their absentee ballots.

The district has been releasing the spending plan in sections at a series of public meetings that began Jan. 8. When schools closed due to the pandemic, it’s Board of Education continued to deliberate before proposing the final budget on May 13.

If the budget passes, it will include the hiring of three social workers to alternate among the district’s four elementary schools. “We’ve heard the need for increased mental health resources, and it’s definitely a priority,” said David Casamento, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The district will be hiring a guidance counselor to rotate among the three buildings on a weekly basis, a part-time district-wide health and safety representative and additional art and music teachers in its elementary schools.

The budget expands the district’s integrated co-teaching model at the secondary level, which aims to provide a more inclusive classroom setting for special education students.

The proposed budget totals $214.18 million, an increase of 2.66 percent. The 2020-21 tax levy — the total amount the district must collect in taxes to meet expenses — is projected to rise by 2.5 percent, to just under $143.10 million, according to district officials.

A tax-levy increase greater than 2.56, or $3.48 million, would exceed the state tax levy cap and require a supermajority of at least 60 percent of voters to pass — which the district has done only once, with the 2015-16 budget, when it implemented its full-day kindergarten program. “And I hope that’s the only time we do it,” said Patrick Pizzo, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and finance.

District-wide infrastructure improvements are part of an ongoing plan that takes into account input from school principals. “Everybody wants air conditioning. Everybody wants new technology,” Pizzo said. “But you need to have the backbone to support it . . . with the proper infrastructure.”

Capital improvements at elementary schools include increasing the size of the parking lot at Bowling Green, renovating the bathrooms at Barnum Woods, replacing classroom door locks at McVey, and resurfacing and painting the basketball court at Parkway.

Resurfacing of the tennis court at Woodland Middle School is also planned. W.T. Clarke middle and high school, whose buildings are connected, are to have a gymnasium repainted. And East Meadow High School is to have a new carpet in its library.

Residents will vote on the final spending plan on June 9, along with Proposition Two and Three. Voting will be exclusively by absentee ballot. All eligible voters will send their ballots, with a postage paid return envelope, to the district no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday. For more information, contact the district clerk at (516) 478-5746.

Proposition Two is an addendum to a $58.8 million joint school and library bond that voters passed in March 2017. The district has been renovating its fields as part of the bond, and its current plan is to install a new $600,000 grass football field at East Meadow High. Based on community feedback, however, officials added an option to install green crumb rubber synthetic turf fields, totaling $2.58 million, at the high school and on another field at Clarke. The tax impact will be $12.69 per year or $1.06 per month.

Proposition Three is the East Meadow Public Library budget, which is projected at $7.95 million or a 4.2 percent increase from the 2019-2020 budget.

Lastly, residents will vote in the Board of Education and Library Board races. Vice President Alisa Baroukh and Trustee Scott Eckers are running, unopposed, for seats on the Board of Education and Ellen Matishek is running, also unopposed, for a seat on the Library Board.