A combination of reduced expenditures and a small bump in state aid has put the West Islip School District in an improved financial position as officials work to formulate a proposed budget for the 2012-13 school year.
During the school district’s first public budget workshop Tuesday night at Beach Middle School, Superintendent Richard Simon reported that the district, which was once $6.5 million over the state’s tax levy cap, is now less than $500,000 above the dollar threshold set by the cap.
The main factors in bringing the school district closer to the tax levy cap are:
• closing Westbrook and Kirdahy elementary schools: $3.1 million savings
• retirement of six teachers and four administrators: $700,000 savings
• lower than anticipated pension costs: $600,000 savings
• lower than anticipated health care costs: $600,000 savings
• lower Social Security costs: $200,000
• state aid revenue up $700,000
“We definitely got some good news the past couple weeks,” Simon noted.
With school districts across Long Island wrestling with the reality of the new tax levy cap, Simon noted the much-discussed “two percent” figure actually varies district to district.
Using a complex formula from the state, West Islip this year is permitted to raise taxes an additional 2.27 percent over the current budget. In dollars, the school district for the 2011-12 school budget raised $73 million in taxes. This year, by law, the school district can raise $74.6 million in taxes.
The current school budget that was approved by voters in May 2011 is just north of a $107 million.
While the school district is closer to the dollar levels allowed by the cap, there are still decisions facing the board of education to close the remaining gap that now stands somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000.
During the budget workshop, Simon outlined a number of areas that board members could consider cutting in order to reduced the proposed budget by that additional $400,000-plus needed to be trimmed.
Among the possibilities is the still-planned March referendum on extending busing mileage requirements for middle school and high school student. As proposed, the middle school busing mileage minimum for grades 6 to 8 would be extended to 1.5 miles while the high school busing mileage minimum for grades 9 to 12 would be extended to 2 miles.
If approved by voters, the changes would save the school district $500,000 annually.
Among the other possible areas to cut outlined by Simon include:
• furlough all district employees for one day: $300,000 savings
• reduce elective offerings at the high schools: $80,000 to $160,000 savings
• eliminate middle school sports: $250,000 savings
• eliminate junior varsity sports: $155,000 saving
• eliminate one district office clerical position: $40,000 savings
• eliminate high school dance class: $60,000 savings
While decisions for the board of education remain as it works on the draft budget, trustees have a target date of April 18 to approve a proposed spending plan.
The next budget workshop is scheduled for Thursday, March 15, 7:30 p.m. at Beach Middle School.