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Board of Ed floats $140M budget

Kaminsky secures signficant boost in state aid

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School district officials proposed a budget of about $140 million for the 2018-19 school year at the March 22 Board of Education meeting, an increase of about $4.7 million over the current spending plan.

The district expects to receive about $24.3 million in state aid, according to the State Education Department. Chief Operating Officer Michael DeVito said the district was originally set to receive about $42,000 more in state aid than it did this year, but would actually receive about $325,000 more, and he thanked state Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblywoman Melissa Miller for helping to secure the additional funding.

“I’m proud to have helped secure more funding for Long Beach schools so that our students can have the best learning opportunities available,” Kaminsky said. “Importantly, the more money we secure from Albany, the less Long Island taxpayers are called on to shoulder the financial burden.”

School board President Stewart Mininsky said the boost in state aid would help offset the tax levy, the amount the district needs to raise through property taxes. The proposed tax levy is about $102 million, an increase of about $3.4 million over the current year.

While the spending plan maintains most programs and services, DeVito said that three new clubs — an Anime Club, a Chess Club and a Mindfulness Club — would be added to the high school’s list of co-curricular activities, while the Forensics Club would be eliminated. The proposed budget for next year’s co-curricular activities is about $355,000, an increase of about $11,000. It includes stipends for club advisers, funds for any vendor services that are needed and supplies for the drama and musical productions, DeVito explained.

The board is expected to formally adopt the budget at its next meeting, on April 12. A budget hearing is set for May 3, and the public will vote on May 15. Mininsky and board Trustee Darlene Tangney are up for re-election this year.

About $1.3 million of the proposed budget would be used for projects that are part of the district’s five-year capital plan, including replacing the first-floor windows in West Elementary School, installing a new storage shed for the Nike program on Lido Boulevard and building a new culinary arts classroom in the high school.

“I have a suspicion — similar to what happened with our TV studio — that once we have it, it’s going to really inspire kids to engage in this program and make a career,” DeVito said of the culinary arts classroom, referring to the addition of a TV studio at the high school four years ago. “It’s wonderful what our students at the high school are doing with our new video studio over the past several years, and what it’s done for the student body. Think of what we can do now on the culinary side.”

The spending plan earmarks $400,000 to be set aside for a new transportation building that the district plans to build in the future, at a cost of about $4 million, DeVito said.

The cost of next year’s school lunch fund is projected to be $400,000, an increase of $50,000 over the current year. Steve Kamlet, the district’s director of food services, said that Annie’s Frozen Yogurt was introduced at the middle and high schools at the beginning of the school year, and he anticipates an increase of about $90,000 in revenue. The yogurt counts as a meal that is reimbursable by the government.

“Is Annie’s Frozen Yogurt going to save the program? No, and that’s not what was intended,” DeVito said. “It’s something that’s helping to stave off the gap from growing and is actually helping to reduce the gap.”

The district continues to receive reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs associated with the Hurricane Sandy recovery process — to date, about $24.5 million. The city’s schools sustained about $36 million in damage from the storm.

The most recent reimbursement, in February, was about $1.2 million, which helped cover the cost of rebuilding the administration building. All of the storm-related construction work was completed by last summer.

“A lot of hard work went into getting the $24.5 million from FEMA,” DeVito said at the March 8 Board of Education meeting, adding that the district expects to receive about $2 million more from the agency. The district is also expecting to receive about $3 million in storm-recovery reimbursements from New York state.

The public will also vote on a ballot proposition that would fund capital projects including the installation of new doors and locks at the middle and high schools and East Elementary School, a new interior wall in the high school cafeteria and a new security vestibule at the Nike program site. Altogether, the projects would cost about $925,000, and the funding would come from the capital reserve fund, which now has about $2.8 million.

The projected budget increase was also attributed to a rise in staff salaries and a spike in health insurance costs, DeVito said — overall, about $3.4 million. The district reached contract settlements with the Classroom Teachers Association and the Long Beach School Employees Association last year.