February 6, 2017 -- The North Shore Board of Education began its line by line budget review on Thursday January 26. The $102,113,514.86 spending plan for 2017-18 represents a 2.63% increase over the current year and will allow the district to maintain all current programs and teaching positions, Dr. Melnick said in his initial budget presentation on January 12, while staying within the New York State imposed tax levy limit.
Although the budget book indicates three new English as New Learner (ENL) teaching positions and the addition of a district-wide World Languages Director, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Rob Cheblicki explained that those positions were added in the current year after the 2016-17 budget had been adopted. The ENL positions are necessary for the District to be in compliance with New York State Department Education CR part 154 requirements regarding the educational programs of bilingual and English as a New Language students. The World Languages Director not only oversees K-12 World Languages but also the district's K-12 ENL programs. Assistant Superintendent for Business Olivia Buatsi, in response to questions from a community member, said that this year's funding for those positions has been transferred from other budget lines.
On the revenue side of the budget, despite an "inflation factor"of 1.26%, the rate that is used for determining the district's individual tax levy limit, the tax cap for next year is more or less the same as this year's (actually down by $9,000, or about 0.01%).
Dr. Melnick stated that last year's removal of LIPA properties from the tax rolls and the subsequent effort to estimate the amount the district would receive from the new PILOTs on those properties greatly complicated the 2016-17 revenue picture. The district, he explained, received about $1 million more in PILOTs on those properties than it anticipated in an estimate it had provided, under the advice of counsel, to the State Comptroller's office. While that estimate allowed for a higher levy limit for 2016-17, that excess amount in PILOTs, under state law, had to be applied to the following year's revenue, which in turn, under the state's formula, reduced the tax levy limit by that amount for 2017-18.
As for state aid, the district is anticipating an increase of slightly more than $900,000 - from $4,417,565 to $5,331,389, but those numbers are not firm, Dr. Melnick explained.
Additionally, the district will apply to revenue $1 million of a grant secured a few years ago by Assemblyman Charles Lavine and State Senator Carl Marcellino to mitigate the impact on residents of any tax shift resulting from the demolition of the Glenwood Landing Power Plant. Ms. Buatsi said that about $5.1 million of that grant still remains for use in future budgets.
Complicating the spending side of the budget is the fact that teachers are currently without a contract. In response to a question from former School Board Member Darlene Galati during "Public Comment" regarding how the district budgets for that uncertainty, especially with the possiblity of retroactive pay, Dr. Melnick replied that under the Triboro Amendment to New York State's Taylor Law, the district must factor into the budget salary changes due to step increases and lane changes, "and then we have to estimate an across the board."
The next budget review will be on Thursday, February 9 at 7:30 pm in the High School library.
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