Rockville Centre school officials to introduce 2019-20 budget


The Rockville Centre School District is just about done drawing up its tentative budget, officials said, and expect to unveil it in detail at its budget work session on Feb. 27.

The nearly $120 million proposed 2019-20 budget is set to be about 2 percent higher than this year’s spending plan. The tax levy, or amount of revenue the district collects through property taxes, is set to increase by 2.66 percent — the maximum amount allowable under the state’s tax levy cap, considering capital exemptions — bringing its total to $97.8 million.

“There’s been no information provided to the school district about what is happening district-wide for Rockville Centre taxes,” Robert Bartels, assistant superintendent for business and personnel, told residents at the Board of Education’s Feb. 6 meeting, referring to potential reductions or increases.

The budget process began in November, Bartels said, and was reviewed by administrators last month.

New costs to be covered in the 2019-20 school year include funding high school curriculum changes sparked primarily by concerns of parents of special-education students. The Board of Education supported a plan in December to offer South Side High School students a choice to take Regents- or I.B.-level English and history in co-enrolled courses, and reinstate a CORE II program for students with severe learning disabilities in the coming school year.

Other expenses being considered when finalizing the proposed 2019-20 budget, Bartels said, include fulfilling a mandate by the state Education Department to provide guidance counselors at the elementary schools; providing support for the district’s English as a New Language, or ENL, students; and potential staffing additions.

In terms of revenue, Bartels said the district saw “significant increases” this year in tuition from out-of-district students in Rockville Centre’s CORE and RISE programs and would analyze that possibility for the coming year. Though state aid is expected to increase by about $780,000, according to state estimates, officials said they expect that to be an overestimate, as it was this year, and will look at that carefully.

“We’re not looking at any holes for next year,” Bartels said. “We’re expecting to have total revenues matching our total expenditures.”

The presentation came after Bartels explained a report last month by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli that deemed the Rockville Centre School District, along with 20 other districts in the state, to be “susceptible to fiscal stress.” School officials said the label was misleading, and was partly based on the amount the district keeps in its designated reserves opposed to undesignated reserves.

When it comes to next year’s budget, Bartels noted, “This designation, or the amount that we have in our reserves, is going to have no impact on taxes for the community.”