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SWR reverses course on $40K budgeted toward Disney trip

04/25/2017 6:00 AM |

The community’s voice was heard loud and clear: the Shoreham-Wading River School District’s upcoming budget will no longer include money for the annual senior trip to Disney World.

The district had budgeted $40,000 to go toward educational portions of the annual trip, but that money in the proposed 2017-18 budget will be shifted elsewhere, according to Glen Arcuri, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

Mr. Arcuri made the announcement at Monday’s budget presentation to the PTA council.

“From April 3 to yesterday we took money from this bucket and we moved it to this bucket, which is the senior trip bucket,” Mr. Arcuri said. “I’ve taken the money from the senior trip and put it back to its original place.”

The senior trip become a point of contention after the district spent more than $150,000 to fully fund it last year. Interim superintendent Neil Lederer went so far as to say at the April 5 school board meeting that he took the blame for “making the poor judgement,” after residents expressed frustration over how the money had been spent.

At that meeting, Mr. Lederer said the upcoming budget would account for about $40,000 toward educational portions of the trip such as participating in the park’s “Youth Education Series program, one day at Epcot and possibly Cirque de Soleil,” according to a school spokeswoman.

The backlash over the spending reached a fervor after Newsday reported on the $150,000 trip with a front-page article last week.

The Board of Education adopted its proposed $74.8 million budget at its regular meeting last Tuesday. Following Monday night’s presentation, a vast majority of the PTA council voted that it deemed the budget to be “educationally sound” and would ask community members to vote in support of it.

During his presentation, Mr. Arcuri also went into further detail about the district’s proposal to create a 10-year capital reserve fund with a $7.5 million cap.

Sources of funding wouldn’t come from the taxpayers, but budgetary appropriations, unappropriated fund balances from the general fund as authorized by the Board of Education and transfers from other reserves as authorized by law, he said.

“It’s important to point out, the voters are approving to create this account,” Mr. Arcuri said. “They’re not voting to put money in on May 16. It’s just the authority to establish it. When and if we get money in it after it’s established, we have to go to the taxpayers to get permission to spend this money.”

Establishing the reserve allows the district to fund necessary capital improvements — repairs, alterations and renovations to numerous facilities in all buildings — that weren’t originally included in that year’s operating budget or the $48.5 million voter-approved bond referendum passed in January 2015, he said.

“We are one of the few districts on Long Island that doesn’t have this reserve,” Mr. Arcuri said. “We don’t have it, and that’s an explanation for why the buildings fell into the level of disrepair that they have fallen into. Because there wasn’t a place to collect money in order to gather enough to do a substantive project.”

Lastly, Mr. Arcuri went over the district’s three options should the budget fail May 16: the school board can present the same budget in June, can present a modified budget in June, or it can go straight to a contingent budget.

A contingent budget could eliminate numerous programs and technology advances, among other things. It would be about 3.2 percent, or just under $2.5 million, below the 2016-17 operational budget, he said.

The district will present the budget again on April 27 at the Wading River Congregational Church and May 1 at Miller Avenue, both at 7:30 p.m. A budget hearing will be held May 2, with the budget vote on Tuesday, May 16 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the high school auxiliary gym.

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