North Fork residents will go to the polls Tuesday to vote on their local school budget proposals, none of which attempts to pierce the state-mandated tax levy cap for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Oysterponds is the only local district to propose a reduction in spending for next school year.
Three North Fork Districts — Greenport, New Suffolk and Southold — have proposed tax levy increases greater than the Suffolk County average of 3.5 percent.
The Greenport School District is proposing a $15.5 million budget, which carries an estimated 3.99 percent tax levy increase.
Greenport is allowed to raise the tax levy by as much as 4.9 percent without needing to obtain 60 percent voter approval. However, Superintendent Michael Comanda has said his administration and the school board’s goal was to present residents with a budget below that amount, since the district had succeeded in gaining a supermajority approval from the public to pierce the cap last year.
A large portion of the district’s expenditure increases over the past two years have been allocated to debt service from two bonds voters approved in 2010. One was for $7.48 million to pay for facility repairs; the other was for a $1.27 million green energy initiative.
Two wind turbines are slated to be erected later this year between the school’s ball fields along Moore’s Lane. The monopole towers rise to about 98 feet and will be enclosed by a fence. An underground trench will be created to transport the electricity the turbines generate.
In addition, the gym’s roof will be covered with slightly tilted 84-kilowatt solar panels and a 10-kilowatt solar tracking system will be installed on the ground near the tennis court. Mr. Comanda described the tracking system as an “outside classroom” where students will learn about alternative energy technologies. The district is expected to break ground on the alternative energy projects in August.
The 2013-14 proposed budget represents a spending increase of roughly 3.93 percent over this year’s spending plan. It doesn’t include layoffs and preserves classroom and extracurricular programs.
The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District is proposing a $38.85 million budget carrying an estimated 3.28 percent tax levy increase.
The tentative spending plan for 2013-14 represents an $850,000 increase over this year’s figure and calls for consolidating a few teaching positions, laying off others and not replacing some retiring teachers. Superintendent James McKenna has said the staff reduction for the 2013-14 school year will be the equivalent of 6.5 full-time employees.
Some staff reductions slated for the school year ahead are the result of dwindling enrollment, which has dropped from 1,500 in 2010 to 1,350 this year. The superintendent projects another 150 students will be lost in 2016.
The addition of unexpected state aid that was recently secured, coupled with various district spending reductions, allowed several positions that were on the chopping block to be restored, Mr. McKenna said.
Another cost-saving move will be the elimination of one bus run.
As for next year’s tax hike, Mr. McKenna said the estimated 3.28 percent increase is below the state-mandated tax levy cap.
He said Mattituck is allowed to raise the tax levy to 3.65 percent without obtaining the 60 percent voter approval required to pierce the cap. However, he and the school board agreed to present residents with a budget under that amount.
The New Suffolk elementary school district is proposing a budget of $965,324, which carries an estimated 3.9 percent increase in next year’s tax levy. The budget includes tuition reserves of $19,150 to accommodate any students who may enter the district mid-year.
School board president Tony Dill, who prepares the annual spending plan for the kindergarten through sixth-grade district, has projected an expenditure increase of $51,000 compared to the current school year’s budget.
In addition to the school’s septic system collapsing this year, the district’s 18-year-old bus died. The school board has agreed to pay for the septic work through the current budget and lease a bus for the remainder of the school year. Next year, however, the district plans to enter into a third-party agreement with a bus company to provide transportation instead of replacing the defunct vehicle.
Other expenditures slated for the 2013-14 school year include security upgrades.
While there are cameras outside the tiny district’s one building on Fourth Street, another camera will be added outside the main entrance, which currently has a peephole in the door.
The most significant change proposed for next year is a classroom restructuring, which Mr. Dill has described as having a budget-neutral effect. Two New Suffolk teachers have proposed a split curriculum for next year, in which students will spend time with each teacher, who will focus on a certain subject during the school day.
As a cost-saving move, the district will offer remedial programs only during the summer to students living in the district full-time. The summer program had previously been open to school-age children in second-homeowner families.
As for next year’s tax hike, Mr. Dill said the estimated 3.9 percent increase is $10 below the state-mandated tax levy cap.
The Oysterponds elementary school district’s proposed $5.35 million budget maintains programs while decreasing spending and reducing taxes. If approved by voters Tuesday, the budget for the 2013-14 school year will be about $3,600 lower than the current year and the estimated tax levy will decrease by 2.27 percent from the current $4.98 million tax levy.
In addition to the budget, Orient and East Marion residents living within the pre-K through sixth-grade district will also vote on a capital reserve referendum. Superintendent Richard Malone has said several facility improvements are needed, including replacing existing windows with hurricane-proof models, replacing the nearly defunct boiler system and upgrading the telephone system. He’s suggesting the district establish a reserve fund for capital improvements so that funding for such projects won’t have to come from a bond or the school’s operating budget.
The proposed spending plan involves combining grades and laying off the equivalent of four full-time teachers, Mr. Malone said. It maintains current programs and the district is exploring the idea of adding a foreign language program, he said.
Due to the district’s dwindling enrollment, Mr. Malone said he’s recommending that the district combine pre-K and kindergarten for a total of 11 students; first and second grades, for a class of 20 students; third and fourth grades, for a class of 17 students; and fifth and sixth grades, with a total of 19 students. The kindergarten class would continue to start its day in the morning but would be joined by the preschoolers in the afternoon.
The student-to-teacher ratio will increase to 7-to-1 next school year, up from 5-to-1 this year, Mr. Malone said.
The Southold School District is proposing a $28 million budget for 2013-14 that carries a 3.82 percent spending increase over this year’s plan. The district’s estimated tax levy increase is 4.01 percent, the maximum allowable under the law.
Superintendent David Gamberg has said his administration and the school board have been mindful of balancing a budget that taxpayers can afford while preserving student programs.
The proposed 2013-14 budget represents a spending increase of roughly 3.82 percent over this year’s plan, caused mostly by rising pension and health care costs, Mr. Gamberg said. It doesn’t include layoffs and preserves classroom and extracurricular programs, he said, with one exception: the amount of time kindergarteners and first-graders spend each week on art will be reduced.
Other cost-saving measures the district is looking into are sharing a technology specialist with Greenport schools and reducing spending for supplies.
Mr. Gamberg has said the district was able to avoid layoffs and present a budget without piercing the allowable tax levy cap because it received additional state aid and because five employees accepted a retirement incentive, saving the district more than $400,000.
The result of the incentive, he said, reduces the amount the district has to pay into the teacher retirement contributions account. The agreement is a combination of allowing employees to recapture sick days accrued but not used and a $25,000 cash payout, Mr. Gamberg said.