SWR supe holds final budget presentation; tech costs to rise

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03/19/2014 11:23 AM |
Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

Outlining the final sections of his proposed budget for the upcoming school year, Shoreham-Wading River School District superintendent Steve Cohen informed the board of education that he’s proposing spending increases in technology, staff development and athletics, while cutting costs in community programming and health and services.

The items discussed on Tuesday night represented but a fraction of the $67 million spending plan — 5.36 percent to be exact.

In total, costs are expected to increase 1.75 percent year-over-year, with a 1.9 percent tax levy increase expected for taxpayers within the district.

Mr. Cohen said exemptions approved by the state would have allowed the district to propose a tax increase of up to 2.9 percent without having to acquire a supermajority vote from residents, but the board requested he prepare a budget under that amount.

A nearly $940,000 reduction in employee salaries over the current school year helped achieve that goal, Mr. Cohen said. The superintendent has said previously that some employees could be let go entirely as the district plans to eliminate the equivelent of 15 positions through retirements, staff redeployments and some layoffs. He added Tuesday night that contract negotiations with the teacher’s union helped reach that goal as well.

“In addition to preserving our standards, we worked to reduce expenditures and to reduce our dependence on savings,” Mr. Cohen said. “We have a way of addressing crucial facility issues that have been on the board’s plate for many years.”

The superintendent plans to close Briarcliff Elementary School in Shoreham next year as a cost-saving measure, noting three possible uses for the current kindergarten and first-grade building: transforming it into a pre-kindergarten building (pending state funding for such programs), leasing the space or leaving it vacant.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Cohen estimated the technology budget could increase to about $689,300 — representing a nearly 14 percent hike. The increase would help pay for maintenance, support and warranties that go along with new products the district recently purchased through the 2012 voter-approved technology bond.

The athletics budget is expected to increase by $15,000 to replace worn wrestling and cheerleading mats at the middle school, he said.

The debt and transfers budget line is projected to total nearly $1 million since the school board has requested the spending plan set aside funding for various capital improvement projects, including roofs at the high school and middle school, a high school public address system and various repairs at Miller Avenue and Wading River elementary schools.

The remaining budget items Mr. Cohen discussed included: curriculum and staff development, up 16 percent totalling $155,953; community programing, down 2.86 percent totalling $102,888; and the health and services $82,222 budget represents a $430 reduction as a result of the district having to purchase less medical supplies next year.

The district is looking to reinstate the Employee Assistance Program which would increase personnel expenses by $20,000 for a total of $52,835.

Should the community reject the spending plan at the May 20 school budget vote, Mr. Cohen said the district would be mandated to decrease revenues by $940,000. Expenditures totalling nearly $1.9 million would be reduced through the elimination of various capital improvement projects and equipment purchases, he said.

After Mr. Cohen completed his presentation, school board president Bill McGrath said he’s pleased with the proposed spending plan.

“We talk about a budget where we try as hard as we can to maintain our program,” he said. “There’s still a lot more we’d like to do and trying to figure how we’re going to do that going forward is going to be a challenge, but I think this budget puts us on a good first step down that path.”

The school board is expected to adopt the budget on April 1.