Community Budget Presentation

The East Islip School District Board of Education held its first of three Community Budget Presentations last night in front of a packed audience. Following up on the Jan. 31 Community Budget Forum, the presentation provided a more in-depth look at the facts and figures of the upcoming 2012-2013 school budget, and provided a forecast at what would and would not be included in a ”tax levy cap” budget. As explained to the community, the allowable percentage of East Islip’s “tax cap” is 3.05 percent, given certain exclusions that are permitted under the new law.

Superintendent of Schools John J. Finello and Assistant Superintendent for Business Carl Fraser both spoke, beginning with an assessment of the major challenges that will define the 2012-2013 school year. Overall, the district will see a decline in revenue, as state and federal aid will show no net increase, and other revenue will decrease. In addition, the new tax levy cap limits revenue that can be raised by the district. On the expense side, contractual salary and benefits costs will increase, and instructional mandates will consume resources.
Finello displayed a detailed graph of 2012-2013 expenses, noting, “I want people to see where our school dollars go.” As displayed in the chart, approximately 76% of the school budget is comprised of salaries and benefits for staff. For next school year, salaries are expected to increase the school budget by approximately $2.6 million, and benefits will contribute to an additional rise of $1.6 million.

Finello confirmed that East Islip’s adjusted tax levy cap figure of 3.05 percent had been submitted to New York State earlier in the day. He and Fraser provided detailed information on how the 3.05 percent tax levy figure had been calculated, and noted that the levy increase would equate to an annual $213 tax increase for the average household.

If the district presents a “tax levy cap” budget at 3.05 percent, there will be a funding shortfall of $4.8 million. As noted at the meeting, the district will continue to use its reserves to help bridge a portion of this funding gap; however, major spending realignment and reductions must take place.

Finello presented a range of programs and services that would possibly be considered for elimination and/or reduction in order to present a budget at the 3.05 percent cap. Among the items up for discussion are reductions in kindergarten and the music program, as well as the elimination of the athletic program and elementary co-curricular programs.

Transportation issues such as bus usage and elimination of certain buses, and the status of negotiations with the teachers’ union were also presented. East Islip Teachers Association President Tom Barry took to the podium to address the latter issue, noting concessions made by the union in prior years and their willingness to negotiate. Board President Reed reiterated that negotiations with the teachers are in progress.

Also discussed in detail at the meeting were enrollment trends, efficiencies that had been and will be undertaken, increased cost drivers, and possible ideas for restoration of the proposed reductions.

Community members were invited to take to the podium to address the Board about their concerns, ask questions, and express their opinions.

One issue raised was the rumor of an elementary school closing. Board of Education President Glenn Reed confirmed that no schools would be closed for the 2012-2013 year. He noted that a study had been conducted in December to evaluate whether closing one of the elementary schools would save the district money, but that it proved the opposite. “It would not make any economic sense,” Reed said. Alise Becker-Santa, the assistant superintendent for instruction and personnel, added that if an elementary school were closed now, the district would be unable to accommodate required testing.

The possible rental of the former Early Childhood Center was also discussed. Finello and Fraser noted that the rental market was unfavorable but that various options were being discussed for the future.

The Board of Education invites all residents to attend the next Community Budget Presentation, to be held on March 15 at 7 p.m. at the District Office boardroom. With the community’s input, the Board will determine whether to move forward with a tax cap budget, or one that exceeds the cap. The Board genuinely seeks the community’s input on how to proceed.

The full Community Budget Presentation from the meeting may be viewed by clicking here (the detail section of this presentation does not include the detail for instruction, to be updated at a later date).