SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT PROPOSES $97,851,848 BUDGET, TAX LEVY INCREASE OF 1.66%
January 16, 2015 -- Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick presented his initial budget outline at the North Shore Board of Education meeting on Thursday evening. The $97,851,848 proposal represents an increase of 2.09% over the current budget, and a tax levy increase of $1,459,619, or 1.66%, over this year - $239,897 below what would be allowed under the projected New York State imposed tax cap. With the tax levy under the limit, Dr. Melnick stated that it would once again make residents eligible for the tax reimbursements that they received this year.
The mild increase in spending over last year is largely a result of the sharp decline in required employer contributions to the Teachers Retirement System and lower debt service, which will offset increases in other budget categories. District pension costs will decrease by $1.4 million, said Assistant Superintendent Olivia Buatsi in response to questions from Northwordnews last month. However, because of anticipated increases in health insurance premiums, overall, employee benefits will only decline by about $650,000 compared to this year. Additionally, even with the $19 million bond issue that voters passed in December 2013, debt service will be lower by more than $100,000 next year as compared to this year.
The areas seeing the greatest increases in dollar amounts are the categories of “Regular Instruction” and “Supervision of Instruction.” Regular Instruction, which, among other things, includes teacher’s salaries, is rising by about 3% and Supervision of Instruction is rising by more than 11% ($515,100), but that, Dr. Melnick explained, is largely a result of head teachers’ salaries being moved from the teachers’ salary budget lines to administrative salary budget lines.
All programs and services, the Superintendent said, would remain at the same level as during the 2014-15 school year. Additionally, class sizes would “remain within the parameters set by the board.” Two teaching positions district-wide will be eliminated as a result of decreases in enrollment in the incoming kindergarten classes.
The gap between the total proposed budget of $97,851 848 and the $89,344,684 raised by the tax levy would be closed with state aid and other revenue as well as with $750,000 of the $5.4 million received from New York State to help offset any shift from the decommissioning of the LIPA power plant.
In the discussion that followed, Trustee Lara Gonzalez stated that she wanted to thank last year’s board for a “fiscally responsible budget” and for the refund check that she received from New York State this past December as a result of the District staying within the tax levy limit.
Trustee Sara Jones said that she would like to see information on how going $240,000 below the cap would affect future budgets with that amount compounding annually, and asked for a 10 year projection. She said that it seems that that would impact those budgets by about $1.1 million over that time. “We can't ever just talk about this year,” she said.
Dr. Melnick replied that Ms. Buatsi would prepare that information to show how the lower levy would affect future tax levy limits. He said that if the board chose to put the tax levy at the legal limit, spending would not increase, but that less would be taken from other revenues, allowing the district to have more in reserve for future years.
Trustee Maryanne Russo stated that there were limits on the amounts that could be put into reserves, and that with uncertainty about LIPA, the district needs to think about what would be best in the worst case scenario.
Dr. Melnick stated that he agreed, and that he and Ms. Buatsi “have tried to take a middle of the road course.” “If there is going to be an impact from LIPA, let's keep the tax levy lower than the limit,” he continued, “but let’s not undercut it so much that we’re hurting ourselves in the future.”
According to an analysis by Northwordnews, with all other things being equal, if the proposed 1.66% levy increase for next year remains unchanged, district taxpayers on average could expect to see a rise of $13 to $14 a month in their school tax bills compared to the current year. The difference between having a levy at the limit and one $240,000 below the limit would be about $2 a month for the average taxpayer.
The line by line discussion of the first budget draft will begin at the School Board’s next meeting on January 29.
BACK TO HOME PAGE