The Seaaford School District is looking at a 3.56 percent allowable tax levy increase for its 2013/14 budget but is facing more than $2 million in cuts in order to maintain programing and staff under current state aid projections.
Seaford Interim Assistant Superintendent for Business Alan Phillips said during Thursday night's school board meeting that with allowable exceptions such as required payments to the Teacher's Retirement System, the district will be permitted a 3.56 increase to its tax levy under a tax cap law approved by the State Legislature that took effect last year. The tax levy is the percent of a budget that must be raised in taxes in order to meet expenses.
Last year, Seaford was allowed a 2.93 percent tax levy hike but opted to go with a 2.5 percent jump in order to have a better chance of passing the budget after a year of austerity. District officials had been told they could rollover the roughly $190,000 of unused allowable tax levy funds for the next year, but were later informed by State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli's office that the law does not enable this action.
An executive budget proposal released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month has Seaford losing 6.88 percent in state aid. Seaford Superintendent of Schools Brian Conboy said if these numbers hold, around $2.3 million in cuts would be needed to restore programs and current staff levels. He said difficult decisions will need to be considered including possibly dropping to an eight-period day at the middle school and high school, which is already being explored in other Long Island districts.
"The next six or seven weeks are going to be crucial that we prioritize and value everything that we have here in Seaford, but to make up things in the millions we will be starting to talk about some sacred cows," said Conboy in his administrative report during Thursday night's school board meeting. "I loathe to move in that direction because it's not good for students, but our realities are what our realities are."
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Some Seaford school board trustees said during Thursday night's meeting they would be willing to discuss possibly exceeding the tax cap limit in order to keep and add valuable programs. This strategy would mean at last 60 percent of voters would need to approve the budget proposal.
"I would like to see a budget that restores programs that are beneficial for the kids," said Brian Fagan, president of the Seaford Board of Education. "I'm looking to put a budget in place that meets the needs of the entire district."
Additional budget discussions are slated for school board meetings on March 7, March 14, March 21 and April 4. Conboy said he would like to see a spending plan adopted by April 11. A budget hearing is scheduled for May 9 with the vote taking place on May 21.