Mattituck supe discusses closing projected $110K budget gap

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03/07/2014 10:00 AM |
From right, Mattituck-Cutchogue School District Superintendent James McKenna, board president Jerry Diffley and vice president Charlie Anderson at Thursday night's budget workshop. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

From right, Mattituck-Cutchogue School District Superintendent James McKenna, board president Jerry Diffley and vice president Charlie Anderson at Thursday night’s budget workshop. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

Mattituck-Cutchogue School District Superintendent James McKenna says he’s confident additional state aid will be available in time to reduce a looming $110,500 budget gap projected for the 2014-15 school year by half.

During a school board budget workshop Thursday night, Mr. McKenna said he believes recent lobbying efforts across New York has made state elected leaders focus on restoring aid lost by a specific budget adjustment formula.

Over the past three years, Mattituck has lost about $1.6 million in state aid through what is known as the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA. In Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget released in January, Mattituck is projected to lose $460,780 through the GEA in the 2014-15 school year, according to Mr. McKenna’s presentation.

In the superintendent’s proposed $39.74 million spending plan, expenditures are expected to increase by 2.29 percent over the current budget. He also plans to use about $1 million in appropriate fund balance to offset next year’s tax levy. He’s expected to give a presentation to discuss the district’s savings accounts at the next budget workshop set for March 13.

Mr. McKenna also said he’s recommending the district maintain its current programs and estimates the proposed tax levy would need to be set a 2.19 percent. The projected $110,500 budget gap is caused by the difference between that percentage and the district’s allowable tax levy of 1.86 percent, he said.

The allowable tax levy calculation is a state-mandated cap on year-to-year increases. If Mattituck decided to adopt a budget that pierces the 1.86 percent tax levy cap, then at least 60 percent of residents would need to vote in favor of the budget in order for it to pass. If a budget reflects a tax levy under the cap, then only a simple majority is needed.

Mr. McKenna said he won’t recommend piercing the cap or cutting programs and extracurricular activities because state lawmakers said during the annual Longwood Regional Legislative Breakfast in Middle Island last month that they’re committed to restoring aid lost through the GEA.

“I believe the gap will be closed because of the increase in state aid,” he said. “I would project it is going to close at least half of that gap through state aid.”

As for the remaining shortfall, Mr. McKenna said he’s looking to make changes in the district’s technology and capital repair budgets.

Only one resident spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and asked if the board would consider adopting a new tax exemption for war veterans.

School board president Jerry Diffley said the exemption will be discussed at an upcoming Board of Education meeting.

Board vice president Charlie Anderson said the board didn’t have enough information to make a decision in time for the March 1 deadline. Southold and Shoreham-Wading River are the only local school districts to have adopted the exemption in time for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

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