What appeared to be a boost when the Seaford School District received a spike in building aid last month has now turned into a curse.
Seaford Superintendent Brian Conboy explained during Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting that the district was alerted Wednesday about how the extra building aid will negatively affect how they are impacted by the new 2 percent tax cap rule passed by Albany lawmakers last summer. Conboy said a complex formula built within the tax cap law means that as a result of the $2.2 million in building aid Seaford is receiving for completed projects from a 2007 $21.5 million capital improvements bond, the district is only allowed to increase its tax levy by .68 percent.
“Seaford may be one of the only districts in New York State that does not have the ability to at least propose a 2 percent tax cap for a minimum vote,” said Conboy during Thursday’s school board meeting held at Seaford Manor School.
Seaford Assistant Superintendent for Business Ken Aldrich said under a .68 percent tax levy increase, the district would need to slash $862,839 to maintain current programs and staff levels. Under a 2 percent tax levy hike, the district would be looking at having to cut around $250,000, Aldrich said. A tax levy is the total amount that a district must raise in property taxes in order to meet expenses.
Conboy called and sent letters to Assemblyman David G. McDonough, R-North Merrick, and State Sen. Charles Fuschillo, R-Merrick, to see if emergency legislation can be adopted to assist districts like Seaford facing unusual circumstances that limit allowable increases far below the 2 percent tax cap. Districts are supposed to post their tax cap-related figures for the 2012/13 school year by March 1. Conboy pointed out in his letter to Fuschillo and McDonough read at the school board meeting that in addition to operating on a contingency budget, Seaford has the second lowest per pupil spending of all 56 districts in Nassau County.
“This restriction places a crippling and additional burden on us making the development of any financially conservative budget plan for the 12/13 school year, virtually impossible,” Conboy wrote in his letter to the two local Albany lawmakers. “I ask in the greatest urgency that the New York State Legislature act swiftly to examine the situations within the state for the few districts that are in a similar situation with a less than 2 percent tax levy increase restriction.”
The latest blow Seaford was dealt from the state drew frustration from school board members including vice president Richard DiBlasio who stated in his closing remarks during Thursday’s meeting, “Albany, we have a problem.”
“I feel like we were slammed,” DiBlasio said. “The people I feel sorry for are the children.”
The Seaford school board is planning to begin crafting its 2012/13 budget during its March 1 work session and then continue with weekly meetings throughout the month. Conboy said if Seaford is stuck at a .68 percent tax levy cap, many staff cuts will have to be made.
“Right now were in a prepare for the worst hope for the best situation,” he said. “We have to proceed with our budget planning as if the worst is going to come true.”