New Suffolk will borrow to cover tax revenues

For perhaps the first time in its history, the New Suffolk School District is poised to do what most school districts do routinely — borrow money in anticipation of tax revenues that won’t flow until January. The amount of the borrowing hasn’t yet been determined.
In past years, the tiny district has had enough money in its coffers to cover expenses during the first several months of the school year. But with added unforeseen expenses that forced the school board to increase its budget by $160,000 this fall, the district will run short of money after this month, Superintendent Robert Feger said at Tuesday night’s board meeting. The need to take a tax anticipation note this year isn’t likely to be repeated next year when a lot of this year’s one-time expenses won’t be included in future budgets, he said.
In order to continue to operate in November and December, the district will borrow money that it will repay when it receives tax money from the town in January. School officials in other districts often complain about the system that causes them to incur interest expenses on borrowed money. But because the town operates on a calendar year while schools operate on a fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30, such borrowing is routine.
Board members will meet with Mr. Feger and teachers later this month to work out a system for preserving prekindergarten education without sacrificing the needs of older students. The district has experienced major growth in the past two school years — more than doubling the number of students from an average of six to nine students to 19 last year and 22 this year.
That prompted head teacher Holly Plymale to express concerns that concentrating on the needs of the prekindergarten students may interfere with ensuring that second-grade students get the preparation they need for advancement into the third grade, when the state begins testing student achievement.
One possibility, suggested by parents at Tuesday night’s meeting, was to use parent volunteers to work with the prekindergarten students under the supervision of teachers, whose time could then be devoted mostly to the needs of the older students.
Last year, educators scrambled to make changes necessary for absorbing the growth while maintaining educational quality, board president Tony Dill said. This year, changes are being driven by staff enthusiasm for finding better ways to accomplish educational goals, he said.
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