The Northport-East Northport Board of Education directed the superintendent to craft a $158.7 million 2013-2014 budget on Monday, representing a 3.1 percent budget to budget increase from the prior year. It would require a little less than $2.8 million in cuts.
Trustee Julia Binger presented the motion, which also included a request for a summary of reductions and a priority list breaking down additional reductions necessary to reach the tax levy cap. Board Vice President Jennifer Thompson and Trustees Joe Sabia and Tammie Topel were opposed.
Six other motions were voted down before the board reached an agreement. A major point of contention was whether the board should start with a budget that exceeds, meets, or falls below the State's two percent tax levy cap.
As illustrated in Superintendent Marylou McDermott's budget overview on Jan. 14, a budget with zero cuts would require a 4.21 percent increase from the prior year and a 5.1 percent increase on the tax levy, exceeding the cap.
While the allowable tax levy increase for the district under the cap is not yet known, Assistant Superintendent for Business Kathleen Molander was able to give the board an estimate of between 2.75 and 3.5 percent.
Board President Stephen Waldenburg proposed the board start with a 4 percent budget to budget increase and cut back. Doing so, he said, would be the most demonstrative way of involving the public in the difficult decisions that lie ahead.
"If [the public] sees us making those decisions and they understand what we're going through, even that draconian budget, if that's where we end up, will be supported by the community because they will have seen us take it through the process," said Waldenburg.
Thompson argued that starting above the cap puts the board in a very difficult position during budget season.
"To have to potentially back out of things that don't even fall within the tax cap at that point...And it puts an unnecessary strain on us as well as the administration because they're going to be crafting a budget without any parameters of looking at reductions," she said.
Sabia proposed a two percent budget to budget increase--below the predicted range imposed by the cap--and said that additional revenue sources can be found and reserves can be used.
Superintendent McDermott gave the board a summary of the state of the district's reserves prior to the board's discussion on budget direction. The board has used their reserves to lower costs each year, she said, but those reserves must be replenished to avoid an insolvency crisis for unforeseen cost increases.
"We are recommending the use of more reserves once again this year to the tune of about $2.4 million," McDermott said to the board. "We want to take heed from our fellow neighboring districts and be very careful to strike that balance of utilizing and replenishing the reserves."
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