After a presentation given by Superintendent Marylou McDermott on the status of the , Board members scrutinized line items in the proposed 2012-2013 budget until well after midnight on Monday. A PDF of the proposed budget is attached to the article.
At the Board's request, McDermott had presented on March 7: The first budget, reflecting a 1.657 percent budget-to-budget increase with a two percent tax levy would maintain all staff and programs in the district but would require the use of approximately $2.2 million in reserves.
A zero percent budget-to-budget increase with a zero percent tax levy would require the reduction of $2.8 million through cuts to staff and programs and the use of $2.2 million in reserves.
At Monday's line-by-line review, Trustee Jennifer Thompson noted that for the third consecutive year, Superintendent McDermott has taken a salary freeze. She earns $233,000.
The cost of running elections will increase by approximately $10,000 due to higher rental costs for new voting machines and the legal requirement that the district have paper ballots available. District Clerk Beth Nystrom said 11,500 paper ballots will be printed at a cost of $.57 per ballot.
UTNEN president Armand D'Accordo noted the increase in legal fees from $350,000 to a proposed $368,000, which takes into account a possible 4 percent increase from district counsel Ingerman Smith. Currently the district pays Ingerman a $55,000 retainer fee, which includes contract negotiations. Their hourly rate is $195.00 Board President Stephen Waldenburg noted that negotiations have been going on since the contract expired at the end of June 2010. "I think the district does get a very fair representation," he noted.
"That's a fair point," D'Accordo agreed. But resident Fred Trudwig disagreed in light of only a two percent increase for clerical staff.
Trustees as well as D'Accordo questioned the need to appropriate $40,000 for printing costs for the "Our Schools" newsletter. Mailing costs of report cards also came under scrutiny, with Trustee Tammie Topel asking if there could be a way for parents to opt-out of receiving mailings since information is readily available through the Parent Portal.
A proposed increase of $167,500 would go to 76 additional security cameras for all schools in the district. Both Security Supervisor Nolan Briggs as well as Northport Middle School Principal Tim Hoss noted the need for more cameras to monitor situations and provide backup in the event of a police investigation.
An additional $16,000 is proposed for a new chain link fence to replace the post and rail fence at the Ocean Avenue Elementary School. In response to a question from an audience member, Principal Sabina Larkin cited safety concerns, saying it would block off the bus circle and soccer fields.
As for the 5.5 FTEs at Northport High School that would need to be eliminated as part of a zero percent tax levy increase, Principal McLaughlin noted that roughly 630 students would be affected and would need to attend a study hall. “We would still have to figure out what classes to eliminate,” she said, noting that study halls would still require supervision.
Training of 55 instructors in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program would require $165,000. McLaughlin said that approximately 25 percent of every department is currently IB trained, and that the hope is that the training will spill over to other non-IB courses.
Topel made a plea for more cuts to items such as postage, rather than staff and programs. "There are a few of us on the Board who want a zero percent budget," she said. "But we don't want programs cut. We're looking for other ways to cut the budget without hurting programs."
"I don't think any of us wants cuts," McDermott said. "I think it comes down to a philosophy about budgeting. Our long range plan has served us well."
Trustee Joe Sabia disagreed. "I make no bones about it. I have a different philosophy than Dr. McDermott,” he said.
At one point in the meeting, Waldenburg reminded Trustees that the purpose of the meeting was to examine expenditures and agree on them. "And then we can figure out how to fund it."
The Board will continue its line-by-line review at the March 26 BOE meeting, which will take place at 7:30 in the Northport High School large cafeteria.