Oysterponds board announces dates for budget workshops

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Oysterponds schools will discuss the budget at a series of workshops beginning Feb. 28.

The Oysterponds school board has begun preliminary discussion of plans to tackle this year’s budget and has announced the dates of four budget workshops.

The workshops are set for Feb. 28, March 6 and March 27. The board also scheduled an extra workshop for April 3 after board member Linda Goldsmith expressed concern about finishing the spending plan in time for the May vote.

The board also plans to schedule a public forum with other Southold Town school districts aimed at educating residents about the new state-imposed 2 percent cap on annual tax increases.

“It’s really a tax levy cap and it has gotten dubbed as a 2 percent cap,” Superintendent Joan Frisicano said after Tuesday night’s meeting. “In the end, it could come out to be 2.1 or 2.3 percent because of the things that are excluded, such as some portions of pensions.”

One obstacle the board faces in crafting a spending plan is that many of its contracts — including agreements on transportation, special education and whether to continue sending secondary school students to Greenport — are still being negotiated.

“Right now, we have a lot of unknowns,” Ms. Frisicano said. “It’s very hard to plan for a budget when you have to estimate what those costs might be.”

Last year, voters approved a $5.6 million spending plan, which reduced taxes by 1.53 percent even though spending increased by 1.44 percent.

The Oysterponds district has also rescheduled community forums to give residents a chance to weigh in on the Greenport contract.

The new forum dates are Sunday, Jan. 22, at 1 p.m.; Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 28, at 10 a.m.; and Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 11:30 a.m.

In April, the district is expected to announce whether it will continue to send its junior and senior high students school to Greenport next year or seek an arrangement with another local district. New Suffolk, the only other North Fork district in a similar situation, sends its older students to Southold High School.

Board president Deborah Dumont said Oysterponds students enrolled at Greenport schools will be allowed to continue their education there even if the board approves a contract with a different district. In 2009, the board agreed to give parents a choice if the district decided to change high schools.

[email protected]