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Franklin Square officials approve spending plans amid uncertainty

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Franklin Square’s school district and library boards have approved their spending plans for the 2020-21 school year, amid the financial uncertainty of the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

At its May 14 virtual budget hearing, the Franklin Square School District Board of Education approved a spending plan of just under $40.2 million budget, which will be put to a public vote on June 9.

The spending plan, which is 1.72 percent larger than the current budget, would enable the district to replace aging technology and support its STEM Discovery labs.

Those costs would be offset by staff freezes, and the budget would be funded in part by a $29 million tax levy, a 2.33 percent increase over the current levy, which is below the state tax levy cap for the district. The effect on individual residents will depend on Nassau County’s assessment of their property, Theresa Hennessy, the assistant superintendent for finance and management, noted.

“Franklin Square has never exceeded its cap,” Hennessy said, “and is not proposing to this year.”

The district was set to receive $8.3 million in state aid, but state aid pledges have since been revoked, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo cautioned school districts in April that state aid could be cut by as much as 20 percent, with more cuts occurring over the course of the school year.

A 20 percent reduction in state aid could mean that the district would lose out on $1.5 million to $2 million in revenue, Superintendent Jared Bloom said at the virtual meeting, and he encouraged residents to sign the “Protect State Aid for Long Island Public Schools” online petition. It was created by Long Island parents, teachers and school officials to encourage federal officials to protect school districts’ state aid.

The petition, which had nearly 10,000 signatures as of last Friday, can be found at https://bit.ly/3fS0tAl.

Voters will also decide on two other propositions to let the district use money it already has. The first would enable it to install air conditioning at the Washington Street School, transform library spaces into “makerspaces,” or collaborative work spaces — which would be supplemented by a $50,000 grant that State Sen. Anna Kaplan helped secure — and renovate the John Street School’s outdoor area by expanding the school’s bus lot, relocating its playground and repairing a sinkhole in the ball field.

The second proposition would create a new reserve fund to pay for roof and lighting replacements, flooring repairs and replacements and upgrades of schools’ boiler rooms. Neither of these propositions would affect taxes.

The F.S. library

The Franklin Square library’s $2.6 million budget, which was approved in March, is 3.3 percent — or $85,564 — larger than the current spending plan, and also falls within the state tax levy cap.

The increases arise from the facility’s shift to LED lights to reduce energy costs, Director Aviva Kane explained, and building repairs. Libraries will most like not receive any revenue from the state for building repairs this year, Kane said, and because Cuomo cut funding to library systems, the cost of the library’s involvement in the Nassau Library System also went up.

The budget would be funded by an estimated $4,000 in state aid, a $47,000 payment in lieu of taxes by the Long Island Power Authority and a $2.5 million tax levy. The average homeowner would see  his or her property taxes increase by $5 more per year under the budget, according to Kane.

“We think we’re very cost-effective,” she said of the library Board of Directors, adding that it “has always been very careful with the budget,” and is respectful of the community’s taxpayers.