SWR school board adopts $67M budget, forms bond committee

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04/02/2014 10:00 AM |
From left, Shoreham-Wading River school board members Mike Fucito, Robert Rose and  Sean Beran at Tuesday's meeting. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

From left, Shoreham-Wading River school board members Mike Fucito, Robert Rose and Sean Beran at Tuesday’s meeting. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

The Shoreham-Wading River school board adopted Superintendent Steven Cohen’s preliminary $67 million budget Tuesday night, which carries a 1.9 percent increase to the 2014-15 tax levy.

The board also agreed to create a bond committee tasked with developing a capital improvement plan to address the district’s crumbling infrastructure.

Mr. Cohen has said exemptions approved by the state would have allowed the district to propose a tax increase of up to 2.9 percent, or about $1.43 million, without having to acquire a supermajority vote from residents.

His administration and the school board have said they’re committed to crafting a budget under that amount, and next year’s will increase $938,900 year-over-year. The district will now only need a simple majority vote for the budget’s approval.

The school board adopted the budget by 6-0 vote, with board member Richard Pluschau absent from the meeting.

In total, costs are estimated to increase by about $1.15 million year-over-year, which represents a 1.75 percent hike. Smaller class sizes, current programs and enrichment opportunities for students — such as sports, music, athletics and clubs — are included in next school year’s budget, Mr. Cohen said.

A nearly $940,000 reduction in employee salaries over the current school year helped achieve that goal, he added. The superintendent has said some employees could be let go entirely as the district plans to eliminate the equivalent of 15 positions through retirements, staff redeployments and some layoffs. The superintendent has also attributed the 2.9 percent reduction in salaries to contract negotiations with the teacher’s union.

Also included in the adopted budget is the use of $1.51 million from the capital fund for several facility 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, as well as making the building ADA compliant.

Plant facilities administrator Angelo Andreotti briefly outlined Tuesday night other district-wide capital improvement projects, including leaky roofs, rusted windows and a crumbling parking lot. Each item he pointed to was original and has never been replaced, he added.

The middle school track and the district’s tennis courts are also in dire need of repairs, Mr. Andreotti added — so much so that that school’s insurance company deemed them hazardous and unsafe, forcing the school to close them for the spring season until repairs are made.

During the public portion of the meeting, Wading River resident Alisa McMorris proposed forming a bond committee tasked with determining the feasibility of financing overdue construction projects.

“We’re the only school in Suffolk County that has never had a bond,” she said. “It’s like in my own home: I can replace my door knob. I can replace a door. I can replace a window. But, if I need to replace my bathroom, I’m taking a home equity line out. I don’t have that kind of cash sitting in my savings account.”

The school board later agreed to form a bond committee, which board member Robert Rose agreed to chair.

Volunteers interested in joining the committee are asked to contact district clerk Janice Seus at jjseus@swr.k12.ny.us or 631-821-2359.

jennifer@timesreview.com