Budget Rolls Out

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From left: Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen and Assistant Superintendent for Business Dana DiCapua listen to a question from a board of education member

The process for the proposed 2017-18 budget for Garden City Public Schools rolled on at the Tuesday, Feb. 28 meeting where the board of education reviewed the administrative and capital components of this review and discussion. The recommendations for the proposed budget is $112,322,129, an increase of $1,494,682 or 1.35 percent from last year. New York state requires that the overall sum be divided into thirds—administrative, programming and capital. The largest chunk of funding goes to programming ($83,343,353), followed by capital ($16,290,694) and administrative costs ($12,688,079). Part of what makes the process so difficult for the board to maintain a balance between education, revenue and expenditures is not knowing what kind of new initiatives for significant mandate relief might be part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal.

“State aid is the next largest contributor to revenue but the overwhelming percentage of our budget comes from the taxpayers of our community. We don’t know yet the 2017-18 state aid figures the governor proposed. He gave us one figure in January and we used it for our calculations here,” Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen explained. “[In the past], that figure has changed and what happens now is that it’s in the hands of the legislature. There will be hearings, discussions. By law, the state has to produce the budget by April 1. The past few years that the state has done that, we’d know approximately by April 2 what we’ll get. But we don’t know yet and while the legislature has given more funding than the governor originally proposed, we don’t know what the extent of that funding should be. You should know that the governor’s current proposal in terms of Foundation Aid, which is the single largest grant that we get for operating expenses, is an increase of about $37,000. Which in a $112 million proposed budget, is not even material.”

With no consideration given to cost-of-living on Long Island and a number of mandates going unfunded by the state that include carbon monoxide detectors, lead remediation and computer-based testing, the district has been enacting a number of cost-saving measures. Among them are the expansion of cooperative bids and participation in consortia, optimizing high efficiency high school auditorium lighting and implementation of labor contracts with reduced levels of increases.

The proposed administrative budget ($12,688,079) covers the board of education, central administration, school community relations, plant operation and maintenance, central data processing and special items (insurance and BOCES). Among the major 2016-17 plant operation and maintenance initiatives completed district-wide were the installation of security cameras, new front door mattings in all buildings and water fountains, the purchase of small gas generators for the PA systems, compliance with all lead testing and reporting requirements, and the in-progress installation of classroom fans and a building clock replacement project.

The proposed capital budget ($16,290,654) has money earmarked for a number of district-wide projects. On the elementary school level, classroom radiator covers are being replaced and new library shelving is being installed in Locust, while Stewart is in line to get floor and ceiling tiles replaced in several classrooms. Meanwhile, Stratford will have cafeteria cabinets replaced and new roller shades installed in all the classrooms. The middle school is slated to get air conditioning for the library, the electronic music lab will be renovated and the auditorium will be painted and its stage will be refinished.

Garden City High School will replace the library carpet, bathroom partitions in the locker rooms and the scoreboard in the main gym, soccer and lacrosse field. New tennis court fencing will be installed and a pole vault system will be purchased for the turf field.
Overall, the 2017-18 proposed school district budget will maintain the continuum of special education services and opportunities for diverse learners, comply with the tax levy cap, include funds for security upgrades, continue to provide resources for technology upgrades and continue to prepare students for the rigors of college and the demands of citizenship.
The next two board of education budget work sessions will be on Tuesday, March 14, and Tuesday, March 21. Both meetings will start at 8:15 p.m.

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In addition to being editor of Garden City Life and Syosset-Jericho Tribune, Dave Gil de Rubio is a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly, specializing in music and sports features. He has won several awards for writing from Press Club of Long Island (PCLI).

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