$181 million spending plan for Oceanside


Voters in Oceanside will go to the polls on Tuesday to decide on the school district’s proposed $181 million budget for the 2024-25 school year. The spending plan is just over 4 percent larger than the current $174.3 million budget.

After holding budget workshops at each of this year’s Board of Education meetings, the district held its final hearing on the spending plan at the May 8 meeting, and laid out the details, including the proposed tax levy — the money that would be collected from property taxes — which would increase by 1.57 percent, well below the district’s tax cap.

The budget aims to maintain all existing programs and services, and would also upgrade technology resources, such as Chromebooks and iPads, for students. As well, it provides funding for facility improvements, including renovations, parking lot maintenance and security upgrades. Universal pre-K is among the spending priorities, and the plan accounts for inflationary increases in expenses such as insurance, transportation and special education services.

The proposal would preserve all programs and full-time staff, but there would be no new programs except a girls’ varsity flag football team.

Residents will vote on three other propositions besides the budget: capital reserve projects, a capital reserve fund amendment, and the Oceanside library budget, which totals $7.6 million, up from $7.3 million this year.

Proposition 2, the capital reserve projects, include synthetic turf for the baseball and softball field at Oceanside High School, tennis court renovation to accommodate pickleball at the high school, the addition of air conditioning in the high school band room, a small area of synthetic turf at Oaks Elementary School and the construction of two pickleball courts at the Kindergarten Center.

“If you look at the football field, it’s a beautiful field, and the baseball field and softball field are in desperate need to get done,” school board Vice President Michael D’Ambrosio said, encouraging residents to vote on Tuesday. “This is going to give all our students a real nice reflection on going out on the field. Get your friends and neighbors out there to think about enhancing our fields out, there because that also matters. Our education, buildings, and also our sports.”

Residents will also have the chance to vote for board President Seth Blau and Trustee Stuart Kaplan, who both will run unopposed for three-year terms.

Despite statewide increases in foundation aid, Oceanside did not receive any additional funds, highlighting the challenges of the current state aid distribution system. And the district is in the midst of seven years of reduced tax revenue due to its participation in the LIPA tax settlement, which has necessitated conservative financial planning to mitigate the impact on taxpayers.

Foundation aid from the state allows the district to make instructional and infrastructure improvements. Next school year, the district is projected to receive a total of $34.2 million in state aid. The district initially faced a potential loss of $500,000 in foundation aid, based on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s preliminary budget. Through advocacy efforts at legislative sessions, however, a “save harmless” provision was restored, ensuring that districts like Oceanside, historically underfunded in terms of foundation aid, would not face cuts.

Despite that relief, district officials remain frustrated. With no increase, the funding does not account for increases in expenses because of inflation and societal factors.

“People in Albany took a lot of pride in increasing the foundation aid statewide by almost a billion dollars, (but) Oceanside got zero increase in its foundation aid for next year,” Blau said. “I hope they’re going to come up with a way to change it for the better, which helps our district, instead of coming up with a formula that’s going to continue to reduce (it), because I have a hard time understanding how, when you’re giving up that kind of money, a district of our size, within New York state, comes away with zero additional funds.”