Elwood Schools Notebook

Sen. Marcellino’s proposal to cap districts’ administrative costs, the possible tax rate for residents, and technology savings were discussed at the Feb. 2 BOE meeting

More Caps?

The Board discussed Senate Bill 6152, proposed by Senator Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), which would cap administrative costs at three percent of a school district’s budget.  The bill defines administrative costs as including but not limited to expenditures and salaries for the chief officer, principals, the business, purchasing, and personnel offices and legal services.  Teacher salaries, transportation, and capital projects are excluded. 

On Jan. 23, Superintendent Peter Scordo received a letter from Marcellino in which he acknowledges that he had received feedback from a number of sources and that “objections have been raised as to the inclusion of school principals in the definition.” Marcellino has asked the district to provide the current percentage of administrative costs both with and without principals’ salaries. A pdf of the letter and the bill is attached to this article.

Elwood’s administrative budget is $2.6 million, or 4.8 percent of the budget. The proposed three percent cap would equate to a $ 1.6 million budget.

Trustees discussed sending a letter in return expressing the Board’s disappointment with Marcellino’s promise to them, made at a March 26, 2011 legislative breakfast, to fight unfunded mandates and including a request that Marcellino no longer accept contributions from NYSUT (New York State United Teachers).

On Friday afternoon Board VP Dan Ciccone confirmed that the Board has decided to continue discussing the matter before sending the letter.

Tax Rate vs Tax Levy

Following up on the  Jan. 19 budget presentation, Assistant Superintendent for Business Bill Pastore gave an overview of what Elwood taxpayers might expect to pay in the 2012-2013 school year. The average tax rate to residents for the past twelve years has been 6.49 percent.  With the two percent property tax cap in place, Pastore said preliminary numbers indicate a 3.10 percent increase in the tax rate based on a tax levy of 1.98 percent. A pdf of the preliminary budget is attached to this article.

Technology Overview

Gene Tranchino, Executive Director for Administrative and Instructional Technology, gave an overview of the numerous initiatives the district has in place to support instructional technology, which accounts for $769,000, or 1.4 percent of the budget.  Purchases for Elwood’s three-year lease-purchase program are made through BOCES which allows the district to receive 47% in state aid, reducing the total cost of expenditures by $60,000 each year.

The district also realizes efficiencies and savings through computer-sharing technology, with one computer being shared across three or four terminals wherever possible. Copiers are being utilized as multi-function devices to digitally save and archive material, and as scanners to send jobs to email, rather than printing them manually.

District email, calendar-sharing, and video storage is hosted by Google Apps for Education, which Google provides at no charge for k-higher education.  Tranchino, who has been contacted by schools as far away as California to share his expertise on the subject, says Google also provides the tech support and back-up. Comparable email systems through Microsoft Exchange would have cost the district $70,000.

The district also received four technology grants this year from the Elwood Education Endowment totaling $17,200.

At the end of the presentation, the Board lauded Tranchino’s efforts over the past three years. “You’ve taken us in a very short time to a very advanced place,” Trustee Andrew Kaplan said, noting that he often knows his children’s test scores before they do because of the Parent Portal.

newdawn February 05, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Marcellino's legislation probably will not result in substantial meaningful savings for our school districts and makes very little sense. Most of these administrative positions exist because of burdensome state mandated programs, evaluations, and tests. Maybe if he addressed the real problem our districts would ultimately be able to save money.
Concerned Citizen February 05, 2012 at 06:05 PM
@ Newdawn: You are correct when you state that this legislation will not result in meaningful or significant savings. In a time when we are looking for greater accountability and oversight over schools the senator only wants to keep money funneled into the classroom. Whether or not it is a ploy to keep money funneled through to his former union brothers and sisters at NYSUT, his largest campaign contributors, is something that everyone must consider. If this legislation is passed, there will be some savings, but we can guarantee that accountability, internal controls, and classroom contiinuity will suffer greatly. Teachers deliver instruction, so they are a school’s greatest asset, but they do not run schools or even come close to managing budgets that reach the $100’s of millions. If the senator is saying save a few bucks and create organized confusion in your schools and give the teachers’ union even more control over schools and education; well, it is time to get a new Senator. Ohh.. And while you are talking to the senator, ask him what he was thinking a few years back when he introduced legislation that teachers only had to contribute to their pensions for the first 10-years of their career and have the rest of the pension contributions for a teacher's 20 – 30 year career come entirely from the taxpayer. Marcellino is good at telling people what they want to hear, but it is time for this used-car salesman to put some light in his true agenda.


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