Education

North Fork school districts adopt 2020-21 budgets

School district officials from Mattituck to Oysterponds are moving forward in the budget process as they prepare for a historic absentee ballot-only vote on Tuesday, June 9.

Under an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all registered voters will receive absentee ballots and postage-paid return envelopes, which must be returned to the district clerks by that date.

The order did not specify when absentee ballots will be mailed out, but each district has adopted a budget and set hearings on their proposals.

MATTITUCK

In April, the Mattituck-Cutchogue school board adopted a $41.4 million budget crafted with the uncertainty of the local economy in mind.

According to Superintendent Jill Gierasch, the originally proposed tax levy of 1.9% was reduced to 1.75%. Mattituck had an allowable tax levy cap of 2.29%.

“Additionally, we are being proactive by creating a list of adjustments and areas that could potentially be reduced or eliminated should we receive a cut in state aid. Many districts rely heavily on state aid and additional cuts could devastate well-needed programs for children,” she said in a statement last week.

State officials have predicted a revenue deficit of up to $15 billion and authorized Mr. Cuomo’s administration to assess revenues quarterly and make cuts to school and other types of funding as necessary.

A virtual public hearing on the 2020-21 budget will be held Wednesday, May 27. Members of the public with comments or questions on the budget are asked to submit them by email to [email protected]

SOUTHOLD

The Southold Board of Education adopted a $31 million dollar budget during a remote meeting last week.

The scaled-back version of the $31.3 million plan first proposed in early March represents a 1.33% increase over last year and remains under the 2.21% tax cap.

Current programs and staffing levels remain intact based on current information, according to Superintendent David Gamberg, who noted that state aid is subject to change.

The proposal includes a $120,000 transfer to the capital fund for districtwide upgrades including security, ceiling and lighting work and the purchase of a minibus, Mr. Gamberg said.

Due to uncertainty surrounding state aid, officials plan to pay off all or part of the district’s energy performance debt early, using unanticipated surplus funds, to save the district as much as $128,000 annually. A second proposition will appear on this year’s ballot to fund a new 10-year capital reserve fund.

Establishing the reserve, which would fund up to $9.5 million over a 10-year period, requires voter approval and money from it cannot be spent without voter authorization. The reserve is not new, Mr. Gamberg said. The previous 10-year capital reserve, which was funded up to $8.5 million, concluded in June 2019.

That previous reserve paid for roofing repairs throughout the district, Mr. Gamberg said, and offset the cost of the district’s most recent $9.8 million capital improvement bond, approved in 2015, by about $2 million. That reserve currently has about $3.4 million that will carry over into the new reserve, if voters approve it. 

A public hearing will be held during the board’s next regularly scheduled virtual? meeting on Wednesday, May 27.

GREENPORT

The Greenport Board of Education met in person Tuesday to adopt a $20.1 million budget for the 2020-21 school year. The plan, which reflects a 3.47% spending increase over last year, would raise the tax levy by 2.5%, to $15,774,371.

According to a presentation posted on the school’s website, the budget maintains programming and staff, as well as a security guard.

Insurance costs represent a 2.16% increase and teachers will now contribute 9.53% toward the retirement system, an increase from 8.86%.

While salaries still represent the largest expenditure, at $9 million, they have been reduced from $9.1 million last year.

A hearing scheduled for May 26 at 7 p.m. is likely to be conducted remotely, officials said.

Transportation and special education costs also dropped slightly, while the biggest jump is BOCES funding, which will receive $520,455 more in funding for 2020-21.

Officials are anticipating state aid to drop by nearly 3% based on current projections.

OYSTERPONDS

Voters in the Oysterponds district will be asked to consider a $5.8 million budget for 2020-21.

The spending plan proposes just a spending increase of just $25,334 and would reduce the tax levy by 0.66%, from $5,219,839 to $5,185,402.

A virtual hearing will be held May 26 at 5:30 p.m.

A link for the meeting will be posted at oysterponds.org.

Also on the ballot will be three candidates for three seats on the Board of Education.

Incumbents Jeffrey Demarest and Janice Caufield, whose terms end this year, both filed petitions to run again. Newcomer Erin Johnson is also running.

The third board vacancy was created when former member Linda Goldsmith resigned in July 2019 and the board opted not to fill her seat. The third-highest vote getter will be serve the final year of Ms. Goldsmith’s term.

Updated information on New Suffolk Common School’s budget was not available.