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School District Facing $2 Million Budget Gap

First look at 2013-14 draft spending plan shows significant fiscal challenges facing BOE, administrators.

Budget season has started in West Islip and the board of education will need to decide how to close a $2 million gap seen in the initial draft spending plan for the 2013-14 school year.

During his initial budget presentation Wednesday night, Superintendent Richard Simon outlined a draft budget proposal totaling $116.6 million, an increase of nearly $6 million over the 2012-13 school year.

The draft budget’s total includes a combination of state aid, miscellaneous revenue, use of fund balance and the draft tax levy. However, the draft tax levy is $79.4 million, which is nearly $2 million above the $77.4 million tax levy the school district can legally secure under the tax levy cap, resulting in the current budget gap.

According to Simon, three factors account for most of the increase in expenses: pension costs, up $2.4 million; salaries, up $2 million; and employee benefits, up $800,000.

“We have more than 800 employees,” he said. “When pension costs go up, that is a significant amount of money.”

While some costs are rising significantly, the school district is also seeing some costs savings and modest increases in revenue such as state aid.

Simon noted that the retirement of 18 teachers at the end of the current school year will lead to savings of $1 million. In addition, since seven of those positions will not be filled as of now, the district will realize additional savings of $400,000.

In terms of state aid, initial figures show West Islip could receive an additional $574,000, according to a presentation by Wendy Duffy, assistant superintendent for business.

This year, the school district will also have more leeway with the tax cap. While the 2 percent figure is widely discussed, a number of factors allowed under state law put West Islip’s cap number this year at 3.8 percent.

Should the board of education choose to raise taxes to the tax levy cap limit, the average annual increase for homeowners would be $300.

The challenge now facing board of education trustees and administrators is solving the resulting $2 million gap between the draft budget and the amount of revenue the district will receive when combining state aid, local property taxes and other sources, which could go higher.

During the budget hearing, Trustee George Smith raised concerns over using $500,000 from the fund balance to pay for recurring costs. Should the board of education decide to eliminate that proposal, the budget gap would grow by an addition half-million dollars.

The next budget work session is Wednesday, March 6, 7:30 p.m. at Beach Street Middle School.

Revenue Summary (information from presentation by Wendy Duffy, assistant superintendent for business)

Draft Expense Budget $116,590,369 State Aid (as of 1/23/13) $30,544,198 Miscellaneous Revenue $3,671,040 Use of Fund Balance $2,920,305 Draft Tax Levy $79,454,826 Less: Tax Levy Limit -$77,459,542 Draft Tax Levy Over Levy Limit (budget gap) $1,995,284
Donna m. March 04, 2013 at 12:14 AM
@ "wise ol owl" you seem to have a selective use of the facts, especially when it comes to district office. Your previous posts lamenting the "hardship" of elementary principals tends to give you away. Anyway, why not tell the whole truth? Or maybe you just don't understand it in a comprehensive way. First, what perks and benefits to you believe teachers have? Second, the governor did not target administrative salaries only with the tax cap. He targeted all educational revenue. The boe did not "hand out" retirement incentives. They offered incentives which SAVED the district money. 18 retires this year will save 1 million dollars for 13/14 budget. They do not "lament" the high cost of pensions as it relates to this incentive, but rather the ever increase in contribution to the STATE system that is imposed on districts by the STATE agencies. The boe has nothing to do with these rates, they are controlled largely by how the wall street industry performs. Currently we are paying for the huge losses felt in the economy collapse from 2009. The stipends that you refer to actually SAVED the district money, as these funds were suppose to go towards hiring One administrator to take the place of 3 do administrators. the boe cut the administrative workforce by 25% last year. They consolidated underutilized schools saving 3 million dollars. Take a look at enrollment for next year. Down 181 students. Your bias is showing! Better go back to dm and tell her to cry to someone else!!
Thomas Duignan March 04, 2013 at 03:01 AM
Paula, I agree that there are laws that favor unions however, and we must accept and obey those laws. We should also accept and obey the state law of a 2 per cent tax cap. I read in Newsday last week that the United Federation of Teachers is filing a lawsuit to overturn the 2 per cent tax cap because of their concern for children in lower income school districts. I almost fell off the chair laughing! I've been to the meetings but we don't get to attend the contract negotiations. I would also like to know how many deputy or assistant superintendents we have in West Islip.
Paula March 04, 2013 at 03:25 AM
Thomas, I agree that the 2% tax Cap law should be followed. I think all govt boards should be held to the same standards as school boards and require the 60% super majority to go over it. Perfect example is town of Islip council members voting to pierce the cap, and raise taxes by 28%! Where was the outrage? It was the nysut union not the uft that filed the suit by the way. FYI, there are 2 assistant supers in wi. One for curriculum and instruction and one for business. That is down from 4, with last years cuts. I think if you look at similar size districts cross long island you will see that that number is probably lower then most, probably most telling is the ratio of administrators to staff.
Wendy Regan March 04, 2013 at 12:49 PM
@ "Paula" and "Donna m" I wonder why you picked this moment in time to add to Patch as by your posts you "both" seem to be very passionate about your opinions. Call me cynical (and a lot of other things) but I can only point out to readers that "both" of your user names seemed to just pop out of thin air which would make a person wonder if your're not really someone else. I found it especially telling when "Paula" could recall precisely how many residents asked questions at the planning session and what those questions were. Don't get me wrong, I can recall posts/opinions/facts and tend reference them often (much to dismay of certain people). But being at a budget planning session and recalling the exact number of residents who asked questions and what the questions were was your giveaway. You're outted...better luck next time.
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 12:59 PM
This is nauseating because IF we are going to be down 181 students, that is even more of a reason to consolidate administrators and return to the structure in line with DO back in the 80's, when student enrollment was more than double what it is now. We actually had one Super and asst. Super and a bunch of secretaries. The idea that you can claim the stipends actually SAVED the district money is SICK IN THE HEAD! Stop already! We had to close two ES so the amount of work DO admin. is doing has actually declined and if they can't handle additional work load (goodness knows what the heck they are doing in the first place with all these asst. Super's.) they can take a hike and we should be looking for other equally as competent DO administrators, in this market, they're out there just waiting in the wings for an opportunity and be happy to be employed with less pay. You sound like you've got a personal ax to grind by using initials and trying to zero in on who may be disgruntled. We don't need more layering of DO personnel, we need to ask our employees to do more with less. I believe that WI is a cake walk to be a teacher in, this school district is a safe environment, parents are very involved, community is involved and we are all sharing in the burden of making it stay that way.
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 01:10 PM
So because other school districts are fleecing their tax payers, that should justify our district doing the same? How about stop making comparisons. Didn't your mother ever explain to you that two wrongs don't make a right?
Glenn Denzler March 04, 2013 at 01:31 PM
I will try and make it...Please detail time/place. Last time I went was meaningless. Discussions about lobbying to repeal the Triborough Amendment, lobbying tio allow vouchers, discuss consolidation....these alternatives would not be discussed, and when I discussed with a board directly he looked at me like I was crazy to even think outside the box....
Glenn Denzler March 04, 2013 at 01:38 PM
Paula, while the tx cap is 2%, based on mandates, reduced aide....my school taxes went up by 6.9%...All residents should see their tax bills and you will see the increase is school taxes was far greater then 2%....Just because we staty within cap hardly guarantees a WI resident will see only a 2% or less rise in taxes. There is a huge spending problem in the District, too small a tax base, much of it brought on by salaries/nbenefits/pensions...that which Simon refers to in the $2.4 million shortfall....The answers and actions are far greater in need then ensuring we stay within a tax cap of 2% only to realize taxes still go up almost 7%... The system as a whole is failing and too costly. It is sad, but undeniably true. The BOE has to realize that first before anything real meaningful can be accomplished...
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 01:55 PM
I for one understand wholeheartedly what you refer to when you talk about building principals taking on far more than what they did in previous years, more work load, more responsibilities, waaayyy more issues but did they realize a salary increase? I'm with you, I think this is not the time for anyone to demand, expect, or even request a salary increase. To receive one, to accept one, to request one, demand one, doesn't show one single ounce of CONSIDERATION for the tax payers of this district. I feel like by doing so says one of two things, they don't care, or they are out of touch with the reality of the tax payers they are working for. Neither of the two choices is flattering for anyone making these decisions. With two shut schools, where is my tax reduction???????
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 02:09 PM
The reason why is because there is ONE person who controls the narrative, and a BOE member isn't allowed the creative freedom to "think outside the box", they are locked into a certain set of variables recommended to them by the ONE. The career BOE members have been molded and shaped, and groomed to defer to the ONE. The structure is well laid out, and well controlled, I doubt they even realize it, and if they do, it's so embarrassing that they couldn't admit it to anyone, not even each other.
Paula March 04, 2013 at 03:00 PM
@ Glenn, You are correct, the 2% cap is not a hard cap because the state allows various items to be exempt from the cap. Pensions and debt service I believe come to mind, but i am not 100% sure. After reviewing the powerpoints located on the district website, it looks like they are facing a tax cap gap of 1.9 million. That is equivilant to the increase in pension contributions. As for the rest, we agree, that the costs associated with education are not sustainable. If your review the data provided on the powerpoints you will see that the state funding aid which was drastically cut in 2010, has yet to be restored. So, while school district costs have continued to grow state funding has not. The lack of state funding has, in part, put school districts across long Island in jeopardy. If when the state funding was cut, the districts could then go in and cut the salaries, benefits and pensions to adjust to the lack of income, then problem solved right? However, districts do not have the authority to just open collective bargaining contracts and make those reductions. It must be done cooperatively. Again, the laws of the state prevent these measures from happening. I do not think it is a matter of not "realizing" this. It is a matter of actully being able to arbitrarilly do it.
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 04:11 PM
At a time when our district is suffering under so many financial issues, to the point that we chose to close two ES in our district due to student enrollment being down, can anyone offer me any justification for keeping the IB program? West Islip has an AP program in place, but this IB program costs the district lots of money to carry, it' s not a state mandated program either. Why should it remain here if it's being kept while we have cut things to save money that had once benefited a larger student body? I mean, who is making these decisions? The IB program only serves a small few in our district, it's relatively new, but it was brought in at a time when we already knew we were heading for the fiscal cliff if we didn't make the decision to shut some schools. Screwed up priorities, that is what I say. Don't buy an expensive program, a duplicative program, when we can't afford the stuff we already have in place.
Jack Latch March 04, 2013 at 05:49 PM
at last years BOE meeting IB was discussed...........I believe the approximate cost mentioned was 60,000 dollars........very little money for an excellent program......
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 06:05 PM
Of course you "believe" that Jack. Stop listening to the talking points and do your own research. Trust me, since it's inception, it's cost this district a pretty penny.
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 06:14 PM
Okay, let's play your game. Our school district student body has been in a steady enrollment decline for more than seven years. In that time, to SAVE our district money, we shut two ES among other things. If we are in a SAVE MONEY FOR OUR DISTRICT mode, then obviously spending a penny more for takes a lot of hubris.
Jack Latch March 04, 2013 at 07:00 PM
It's a tremendous program that has already helped some of our students get into great schools (just off the top of my head I know of one IB grad at Yale another at the Air Force Academy).......the 60k a year seems to be well spent....... I would also guess that families that really value education might move to our district because of the IB program making it a win-win for everyone in town........
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Jack, have you got any idea how many thousands of students went to great schools and academy's by way of the tremendous AP program? West Islip has been recognized as one of the top schools in the country for AP scholars. Apparently, going by the headline article today on patch, our student enrollment will be down by 181 students for the 2013-2014 academic school year. It isn't about 60,000 or five cents, it's about the fact that in order to save money our district has done some very drastic cost saving measures. If we are to see a savings over the long term we need to get rid of some expenses which we don't need. IB is a product we purchased from Geneva Switzerland. It's an expense we should not be carrying in light of the larger student population being forced to adjust to the "new normal" in WI. It's not a win win for everyone Jack, it's only a win win for the small few who actually earn an IB diploma and IB still has nothing on AP. Everything IB stands for is a product, and we didn't need Geneva Switzerland's product model to show our excellent, highly educated teachers how to teach.
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Oh and PS Jack, anybody who got into Yale, would've gotten into Yale anyway.
Jack Latch March 04, 2013 at 08:25 PM
really?......and you know this how?.......The parents I know that have had there kids go through the IB program rave about it, and feel that it most definitely helped their kids get into the schools they are attending.......
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 08:44 PM
http://www.wi.k12.ny.us/pdf/pride/graduation2012.pdf read for yourself. then look up the 2011 pdf. knock yourself out.
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 08:52 PM
http://westislip.patch.com/articles/west-islip-recognized-by-college-board-for-ap-achievements
Jack Latch March 04, 2013 at 08:54 PM
"It isn't about 60,000 or 5 cents"......really????.......If the program only cost 5 cents you still don't want it........sorry but that makes no sense......It sounds like you have a problem with the program itself and not the cost to the school district........I will repeat if having the IB program gets some kids into better schools and entices families to want to move into our district it's a win win for everyone in town........and regarding your posting of the 2012 Graduation program, what exactly do you think that proves?.....I will take the parents of IB students opinion on whether it helped get their children into the school of their choice, over yours.......
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 09:00 PM
show me a IB diploma graduate. I see the same names, they label them scholars, but I see IB standard Level and one HL, another two or so with "Excellence" next to the course taken. SL students don't get college credit. It caters to only a few, they count seats, not heads. Last year there were 62 AP scholars, 262 who sat for the AP exams and 206 who scored a 3 or higher.
Jack Latch March 04, 2013 at 09:01 PM
I'm not sure what your post regarding AP is about either???.........my children have gone through the AP program and I think it's great........but that doesn't mean the IB program is not well worth the minuscule portion of the budget that it takes up......If you don't care for the curriculum itself that is an entirely different argument......try to stay on point..
Wendy Regan March 04, 2013 at 09:45 PM
You're really going to say that people might move into our town for the IB program!? That statement is as much of a stretch as the administrators referring to " IB seats" instead of students at budget time. Exactly how many students are in IB? We'll do some good old fashion division and see if it's worth keeping or if the "minuscule amount" you say the program costs would be better spent on the MAJORITY of students' educations. A quick FYI: My cousin graduated from the Air Force Academy in the top 20. He took AP classes in high school.
pampatriot March 04, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Jack, five cents or 60,000, it's to demonstrate that while closing schools, cutting programs, letting go quality teachers and support staff, etc. etc. etc. I want not one more dime spent on these programs that only cater to a very small segment of the student population. That is the whole point. We have an excellent AP program that has done a marvelous job of graduating the highest achievers who have gone on to Harvard and Yale, if you want to flaunt those institutions to elevate your argument. I asked you to have a look at the numbers, the numbers don't lie, it's the same students, who occupy SEATS which that the district counts multiple times to justify the existence of IB. Of course you'll believe what a few parents say, (of which I doubt...cuz you know them all right?) lol Well, while it would be so wonderful to purchase every product on the market, in this very difficult and financially challenging economy, a product that costs a lot of money, that hails from Geneva Switzerland, should absolutely take a back seat to what is in the best interest for ALL the children in our community. I said, our excellent, qualified, masters degree carrying professional teachers, taught here in the USA, under the guidance of the education depts. in the USA, have the same ability to teach the same philosophical points of view.
Maggie Kent March 04, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Pampatriot, I agree with you. My son had taken IB classes and he often stated that he got more out of the AP courses which he also had taken. A big savings would be "pay to play" sports. If I belonged to a gym I wouldn't expect my block to pay for the membership. We need intelligent children ready to face the real world, not an athlete.
ELLA March 08, 2013 at 06:06 PM
I heard that he applied in another district and did not get the position. So the BOE gave him a raise and another contract. Check it out.
ELLA March 08, 2013 at 06:20 PM
I wish everyone would stop blaming the teachers. They are the most important person in a childs education. The problem is at the top. Cut the Administrators. When you went to school, did you have more than 1 assistant coach for each team. Ask the BOE how much is in the budget for sport supplies, uniforms, etc. How much has textbooks been cut in the last 5 years. Start putting the children first. That's the BOE's job.
ELLA March 08, 2013 at 06:27 PM
I wish everyone would stop blaming the teachers. They are the most important person in a childs education. The problem is at the top. Cut the Administrators. When you went to school, did you have more than 1 assistant coach for each team. Ask the BOE how much is in the budget for sport supplies, uniforms, etc. How much has textbooks been cut in the last 5 years. Start putting the children first. That's the BOE's job

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