Voters’ Guide: Shoreham-Wading River schools

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05/20/2013 5:00 PM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON  FILE PHOTO

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO

The Shoreham-Wading River School District budget vote will take place between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. in the high school gymnasium.

RESERVES TO STAVE OFF PROGRAM CUTS

Residents in the Shoreham-Wading River School District will vote Tuesday on a $66.1 million proposed school budget for 2013-14 that represents a spending increase of roughly 5.5 percent over this year’s plan. The district’s estimated tax levy increase is 2.29 percent, the maximum allowable under the law.

Superintendent Steven Cohen said his proposed budget will preserve student programs, district services, class sizes and staffing levels. The tentative spending plan also allocates funding for additional security staff and equipment, such as cameras, fencing and security vestibules.

RIVERHEAD VOTERS’ GUIDE

As in Riverhead, the district learned during the budget process that it would receive additional state aid for the 2013-14 school year.

The district will also use “one-shot” revenues to offset a tax levy spike, including $4 million from its fund balance, $1.5 million of prior year state aid and nearly $227,100 from the employee retirement system reserve, Mr. Cohen has said.

The majority of next year’s expenditures will result from a 5.2 percent increase in salaries, up $1.6 million, and a 13 percent increase in benefits, up over $2.2 million. The total cost of salaries, Mr. Cohen projected, is $32.3 million — or 49 percent of his proposed budget. Benefits account for nearly $18 million, about 27 percent of the budget.

While next year’s proposed budget keeps school programs intact, school officials have said it will be difficult in future years to find ways to trim the budget to fit under the tax levy cap, largely because of increases in teacher salaries and benefits that will outstrip the pace of the cuts.

If the spending plan fails Tuesday, Mr. Cohen said the district will have to cut middle and high school clubs, middle school athletics, three clerical positions and one teacher to cut $1.1 million for a contingency budget.

In addition to voting on the budget, residents will be asked Tuesday to approve a High School Facility Improvements proposition that will allow the district to use about $4.98 million from its Tax Reduction Reserve Fund, commonly referred to as “prior year state aid,” to pay for building improvements. Although the district has received its prior year state aid, it must receive voter authorization before using the funds to pay for the slated capital improvements.

School officials are proposing to use the monies to fix code violations the state education department has identified at the high school, including dead-end hallways, classroom egress issues and other areas in the building that aren’t in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district also plans to replace a section of leaking roof above the high school music room and reconfigure outdated science labs.

jennifer@timesreview.com

TWO TO  TAKE TWO OPEN BOARD SEATS

Two vacant and uncontested seats on the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education will be filled May 21. Richard Pluschau will serve a second term as the school board’s vice president and newcomer Sean Beran will begin his first term as a trustee.

Sean Beran

Sean Beran

Richard Pluschau

Richard Pluschau

Mr. Pluschau, 46, has lived in the district since 2005 and is vice president of enterprise data management at AIG. Mr. Pluschau did not return a request for an interview.

Mr. Beran, 41, is a Suffolk County police sergeant who grew up in East Islip and has lived in Wading River for the past 12 years with his wife, Wendy. He describes himself as a “pro student and teacher candidate” who is also sensitive to the needs of taxpayers.

“We must find a way to be fair to everyone while still providing and ensuring academic excellence in our classrooms,” he said. “This is the biggest challenge we face as a community and district.”

Mr. Beran believes his 18-year career in law enforcement will provide a distinct advantage to his insights as a board trustee, especially in the areas of infrastructure and school security.

with Rachel Young