For the third year running, the Southold Union Free School District is planning to keep its 2017-18 school budget hovering around $29 million — below the property tax cap, administrators said at a presentation Wednesday night.
A draft of the spending plan totals $29,440,000, a more than $430,000 increase from the previous year and close to recent budgets. While the budget presented at Wednesday night’s board meeting was only a proposal and could change, Superintendent David Gamberg was quick to note one thing wouldn’t be altered.
“The important takeaway that will not change is that we will remain under the tax cap,” he said.
The tax levy — the total amount the district can collect from taxpayers — will rise 1.6 percent if the budget is approved, under the allowable limit, Mr. Gamberg said.
The superintendent said the district’s administrators were “judicious about strategic planning.”
“Everybody understands the nature of living in a tax cap environment,” he said. “You have to think both short-term and long-term, both tactically and strategically.”
Among the highlights to the budget is savings of nearly $100,000 for the district’s special education program. Those savings came from a discontinued program that didn’t see enough enrollment called Southold Academy, as well as reducing costs by avoiding sending special education students out of the district, Mr. Gamberg said.
Services would not be affected by the budget reduction, he said.
Some of those savings will be used toward a new bilingual program to help migrant students with little educational backgrounds. That program will be partially funded by a four-year, $50,000 state grant.
The district’s health insurance contributions will rise by just under 7 percent next school year, a less severe rise than the 7.5 percent one seen this year, according to the budget presentation. However, the school’s contributions to teacher retirement funds will fall more dramatically from 11.72 percent to 9.8 percent.
The so-called Gap Elimination Adjustment, which was created in the 2010-11 school year to close the state’s budget deficit, will run out this year, but other state aid is expected to rise “modestly” by $10,000, said assistant superintendent Charles Scheid.
Budgets show increasing spending at both the elementary and secondary schools. According to the presentations, the elementary budget increases will be spent on equipment to get the school’s media room and tech lab up and running. At the secondary level, budget increases will cover new wood shop equipment and arts equipment, among other items.
Three new sports programs would be introduced in 2017-18 if the proposed budget passes: boys and girls spring track and field teams and a boys soccer team at the junior high school, based on the high demand.
A final budget go before the voters on May 16.