Shoreham-Wading River unveils $60M budget proposal

Shoreham-Wading River school superintendent Harriet Copel pitched two budget proposals for 2011-12 at Tuesday’s budget workshop meeting, one that includes everything from this year’s budget and one the district would use if forced to operate under a state-mandated contingency budget.

Spending would increase just over 3 percent under Dr. Copel’s near $60 million maintenance budget, with the tax rate increasing about 2 percent. This spending plan maintains all of this year’s programs and teaching positions, except for minor staff adjustments due to enrollment and retirements.

Board member Jack Costas said the tax rate increase could be kept relatively low because the district is making use of prior year state aid, though the exact prior year figure was unclear at the meeting.

The budget draft was well received by many parents in attendance and some board members.

“It’s a magic wand budget,” board member Rich Pluschau said.

Some parents longed to restore some of the cuts made last year, including those to programs and librarians at the elementary schools.

Board member Bob Alcorn stressed the importance of librarians in elementary schools, but Mr. Pluschau suggested the district look to implement an effective curriculum for librarians before considering restoring those positions.

Dr. Copel was hesitant to restore programs at the elementary schools, saying the move could lower the odds of the budget passing.

“Other districts are really making drastic and dramatic cuts,” she said. “When we list what we’re putting back, be cognizant of how the community will respond to that.”

The board couldn’t come to a consensus on restoring elementary programs.

The board requested, and Dr. Copel agreed, to add about $60,000 to the draft budget to replace two trucks for use throughout the district.

The board also drafted a list of necessary reductions to bring the budget to $59.1 million under a contingency budget, which carries a 1.97 percent spending increase from this year.

The board decided all athletics except for varsity sports would be eliminated under a contingency budget, though board member Bob Alcorn said he’d rather the board eliminate all athletics in a contingent budget before making any cuts in the classroom.

“I don’t think there should be a kid in the field when the kid in the classroom is being shortchanged,” he said. Under a contingency budget, he added, “I think athletics has to be on the chopping block.”

Additional reductions under a contingency budget could include two clerical positions; the equivalent of five employees at the middle school, including one social worker; and the equivalent of four employees at the high school, including one business and one art teacher.

Also under a contingent budget, one section of kindergarten would be eliminated, and the district would reduce spending on co-curricular programs, professional development, an employee assistance program and supplies and materials.

The board is expected to adopt a budget April 12. The vote is scheduled for May 17.

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