SUPERINTENDENT REDUCES BUDGET PROPOSAL BY $275,000 WHILE RECOMMENDING CREATION OF SCIENCE RESEARCH TEACHING POSITION
February 1, 2015 -- At Thursday evening's Board of Education meeting, North Shore Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick recommended shaving approximately $380,000 from the initial 2015-16 budget draft that had been presented two weeks ago, while proposing that the district spend an additional $105,000 to create a new science research teaching position. The $97,575,530 spending plan now represents an increase of 1.8% over the current year - down from the 2.09% increase in the initial draft.
Much of the proposed trimming results from even better numbers than what had been originally forecast for teacher pension costs. The District had anticipated a decline of $1.5 million next year compared to 2014-15. However, with the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System now providing the District with more precise figures regarding the percentage of payroll that it will be obligated to pay into the fund, the District is now expecting to save an additional $260,000 on those budget lines. Several other areas were trimmed as well, but less significant in dollar terms. For instance, declines in gasoline prices are expected to bring down transportation costs by an additional $15,000. Total reductions to the initial draft came to about $380,000.
Offsetting that reduction by $105,000 was the Superintendent’s proposal to create a science research teaching position that would help high school students with research methodology and in preparing for national science contests. The position would be similar to that which exists in Jericho, Manhasset, Roslyn, Great Neck and other districts that are perennial powerhouses in both the Intel and Siemen’s national science research competitions. Additionally, Dr. Melnick said that the science research instructor would also be teaching engineering and robotics elective courses.
Trustee Marianne Russo said that she was happy to see that the new science position was being created, but expressed concern that there would not be enough time in the school day for students in the IB Diploma Program to take a science research class. Dr. Melnick said that they would be able to do both, with some of that instruction possibly taking place during a “zero” period as is the case with a math research course that is currently being offered. He added that, as with the math research class, the instruction could be connected to their IB research paper. Trustee Russo replied that she believed students in the IB Diploma program would not be able to take the Engineering and Robotics electives. Dr. Melnick said that there were many students not enrolled in the IB Diploma program who would be able to take those classes, and that students could also take the electives as 9th or 10th graders. Trustee Russo questioned whether that could be done. Dr. Melnick said that he believed that it could be.
Trustee Sara Jones said that she believed a science research course would be very useful to students in the Diploma program since they are required to write a substantial research paper.
Dr. Berliner said that schools that often have a large number of Intel semifinalists have a similar instructional position that “supports, encourages and nurtures students and gives them the extra attention that enables them to be as competitive as they can be.” “I think this is a real plus for the budget," he said.
Dr. Melnick and the seven trustees then reviewed the first 32 of 50 pages in the budget booklet, which include, among other categories of expenditures, "Regular Instruction," "Supervision of Instruction," and "Special Education."
During that discussion, questions were raised concerning a few budget lines, including costs for training teachers for the Columbia Teachers College Writers Workshop program, and for test prep materials.
During Public Comment, a resident asked if the District had received firm numbers on what the tax levy limit would be for next year, since the number presented at the last meeting was a “projection.” Assistant Superintendent Olivia Buatsi said that the District had received the figures and that a 1.62% tax levy increase was allowed with just a simple majority vote required for approval. Dr. Melnick and Ms. Buatsi said that the discussion regarding whether or not the district would adopt a tax levy at the limit, or at a lower level, which would require more revenue to be raised by withdrawing from reserves, would take place after the spending side of the budget was settled.
Thursday's review was the first of several that will take place over the next few months. The schedule is as follows - 2/26 (Budget Review), 3/12 (Budget Review), 3/26 (Budget Review), 4/16 (Budget Adoption), Tuesday, 4/28 (Meet the Candidates Night, HS Cafeteria, 8 PM), and 5/7 (BOE Town Meeting/Budget Reading). The Budget/Tax Levy Vote and Election of Trustees will be on Tuesday, 5/19, in the North Shore High School Gym from 7 A.M. -10 P.M.
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