Greenport adopts budget with lowest tax increase in four years

04/10/2014 9:57 AM |
Superintendent Michael Comanda presents to the Greenport school board at its meeting Tuesday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Superintendent Michael Comanda presents to the Greenport school board at its meeting Tuesday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The Greenport school board unanimously approved a proposed $16.39 million budget for next school year, which comes in exactly $1 under the allowable state tax levy cap, at its meeting Wednesday night. 

The budget includes roughly $180,000 to establish a pre-kindergarten program at the school and will go to a public vote on May 20, said Greenport Superintendent Michael Comanda.

A full line-by-line copy of the budget showing revenues and costs — including salaries and program payments — was not provided by the board. It will be made public by May 6, district officials said.

The proposed budget would keep the increase of the tax levy — the total amount collected from taxpayers — just under under the state-mandated limit of 2.87 percent. Mr. Comanda said the district estimates taxpayers will see a 2.63 percent increase in their taxes compared to last year’s rate.

“This is the lowest we’ve put out in the last four years,” he said of the tax levy increase. “The number one priority was to get under the allowable cap.”

Last year, taxpayers passed a $15.5 million budget, which carried a tax levy increase of 3.93 percent, which was still under the state’s cap due to exemptions like pensions and capital costs. Two years ago, Greenport pierced the tax cap with a supermajority of voters approving a $14.9 million budget.

Board president Heather Wolf said at the board meeting that this budget season was the “second-most scary” she’s had to deal with while on the board in terms of bringing the budget in under the cap.

“But it has a happy ending,” she added.

Mr. Comanda said “strategic” cost-saving measures at the school, such as salary freezes and shared services with the Southold School District, combined with the use of reserve funds and money given to the school by State Senator Ken LaValle have allowed the district to keep its budget “lean.”

The board had held discussions about adding a proposition to the May vote to set up a pre-K in Greenport, but strong community support lead the board to include it in the budget, Mr. Comanda said.

The pre-K would be made up of two classes of 18 children each, with a new teacher and teacher’s aide in each classroom, the superintendent said.

Though Greenport’s school would need some modifications to accommodate the children if the budget passes and the pre-K is set up. Sinks and toilets in the bathrooms near the  classrooms would need to be lowered, but Mr. Comanda said there are no concerns over lack of space.

“We’ve got plenty of room,” he said.

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