The Shoreham-Wading River School District has proposed using more than $1.5 million of its state aid reserves to address school building repairs in next year’s budget, while also using leftover funds from this school year to keep the tax levy increase more than $400,000 below the state mandated cap, district Superintendent Steven Cohen said.
“It recognizes the needs of the community to keep our costs down and it also finally recognizes a very important need to address our facilities,” he said during a presentation of the proposed 2014-15 school year budget at a school board meeting Tuesday night.
The roughly $67 million budget represents a 1.75 percent increase over this year’s budget, and would raise the tax levy by 1.9 percent, school officials said. The district said exemptions approved by the state would have allowed an tax increase of up to 2.9 percent, but the board shied away from raising taxes that high.
The budget requires a simple majority of voters to pass.
The $1.5 million in state aid reserves would go into a “capital fund” line, meaning the monies are set aside to be used for repairs to school property, like leaking roofs and other maintenance.
“Every dollar we put into facilities has the possibility of long-term payback,” said board president William McGrath. He added that some “instructional space” in the Shoreham-Wading River High School was lost this year due to roof leaks.
The district would pull slightly less from its reserves than in this year’s budget, an issue Mr. Cohen discussed at last week’s meeting. He added that money saved by closing Briarcliff and combining schools helped lower teacher salary costs by nearly $1 million.
Board member Jack Costas later said that the district had prepared for higher cost hikes when it warned residents of a multi-million dollar gap earlier this year. When those increases were not as dramatic as expected, the district was able to close part of the gap.
But Mr. Cohen said the district was still using reserves to keep its programs alive.
“We’ve reduced the size of our problem, but we still have it,” he said.
The board will discuss more details of the budget, including expenses for athletics and curriculum, at its next meeting this Tuesday. The budget vote is scheduled for May 20.