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Tax levy increase possible for Oceanside School District's 2020-21 budget

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Based on preliminary state aid numbers, there could be a tax levy increase to fund the Oceanside School District’s 2020-21 budget, according to District Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington.

“We are going to need your help to ultimately sell this budget,” Harrington told attendees at the Feb. 5 school board meeting. “We will stay under our tax cap and not be exceeding the tax levy limit, but we need to address all of these issues because it all comes down to revenue.”

The “issues” Harrington addressed referred to school aid numbers in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget. While the state’s foundation aid for Oceanside schools will increase by $270,372 from 2019-20 — from about $18.4 million to $18.7 million — Harrington said that is “is not an accurate or fair representation of what is coming in to Oceanside.”

Harrington argued that the district is facing a potential $790,713 decrease in overall new money flowing in from the state. The projected increase took into account expense-driven, or reimbursable aid, which does not represent new funds, she said. The schools are seeing a decrease in building aid, from $2.7 million in 2019-20 to $1.4 million in 2020-21, according to most recent projections, which the district distributed at the meeting.

Therefore, a tax levy increase is possible, Harrington warned. In the 2019-20 budget, the community approved about a 2.3 percent tax levy increase. Harrington did not reveal what the increase might be for 2020-21 and said district officials are still working on calculating the numbers.

In addition, she said school officials, along with local legislators, would be advocating in the coming months to receive more state aid. The governor’s budget will not be finalized until the end of March.

“There’s some wiggle room and some negotiations to be had,” Harrington said. “We’re going to need it this year.”

After Harrington briefed the community on the state aid situation, Jerel Cokley, the district’s assistant superintendent of business, presented the administration and capital portions of the proposed budget, which account for 22 percent of the spending plan.

His presentation included increases in contract costs for general renovations at all schools, as well as equipment and services for the Department of Community Activities and contracts for pupil transportation. The district did not yet give an amount for the total proposed budget.

To view details of each budget workshop, visit oceansideschools.org and click the “Board of Education” tab. The next budget meeting is March 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the School No. 6 auditorium.