In what is an annual ritual, the Garden City Public School District began the preliminary public meetings centered on cobbling together the 2019-20 academic year budget. Spearheading the presentation for this lengthy process that culminates with a community vote in May was Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kusum Sinha, who was guiding her inaugural Garden City budget.
The proposed numbers would increase taxes by 2.08 percent (with STAR) for the 2019-20 year. The board presented its first recommendations for the proposed budget, which is $117,999,968, an increase of $2,194,682 from last year. As always, the Garden City School District continues to rely on nearly 87 percent of its budget to come from property taxes (an estimated $102 million for 2019-20) in order for the district to operate its programs.
This is the case because the community is eligible for little federal aid despite these grants varying from year to year, little revenue is generated from interest on deposits and fees and state aid has been continually reducted.
This projected uptick in school taxes can be attributed to a number of factors, including rollover expenses not being covered by the tax levy cap, no reduction in state mandates and a $4 billion New York State budget deficit resulting in reduced aid to the district. All this is coupled with a number of increases that need to be addressed, be they in first-grade enrollment, the minimum wage rate, special education costs, mandated ENL services and and the certain spike in health insurance costs. Sinha pointed out that one of the newer state mandates districts are grappling with is the requirement of hiring a translator.
“We just learned that the budget and all its information need to be translated into Spanish. We are working very hard to make sure we do that, and there’s a cost associated with it and we need to ensure we budget for it,” she said.
The amount of state aid that Garden City Public Schools receives has fallen significantly. In 2008, state aid represented 6 percent of the Garden City Public School’s budget and has since fallen to about 5 percent for the proposed 2018-19 budget. The state aid figure for 2018-19 was $5.8 million and while the actual number for 2019-20 is not yet known, it’s speculated that the uncertainty surrounding Albany’s budget will mean that the Garden City School District will receive less state aid.
A vote on the budget by residents is scheduled for May 21. The next board of education work session, which will be addressing all non-instructional/administrative/capital components will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 12.