Shoreham-Wading River adopts $60M budget

The Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education on Tuesday night approved a near $60 million budget proposal for the 2011-12 school year.

The spending plan, which carries a 3.5 percent increase from the current year’s budget, would raise the tax levy about 2 percent. About $47.5 million would be raised from taxes.

The adopted budget allows for class sizes to remain similar to the current year and it maintains all student programs included in this year’s budget. The plan will cover field trip expenses at the elementary schools, an item cut from the current year’s budget, and includes the purchase of one front loader truck and one snow plow box truck, both of which superintendent Harriet Copel said are essential to the district’s operations.

The spending plan makes minor staffing cuts due to decreased enrollment and retirements, including two elementary teaching positions, one high school teaching position, a physical education position and a clerical worker.

Board member Bill McGrath called the spending plan “fiscally sound.”

“It helps our kids better than we could have hoped,” he said.

Board president Jack Costas concurred.

“This is a very favorable budget,” he said. “We need everybody to go home and bug their neighbors, bug their spouse. We need good turnouts.”

The budget was adopted 6-1, with a nay vote from board member Bob Alcorn, who wanted previously cut librarians and extracurricular programs restored at the elementary schools, two measures the board decided not to include in the spending plan.

“I think we should be providing more for the students,” he said after the meeting.

During the meeting, he explained his vote lightheartedly.

“I like baseball. I’m superstitious,” he said. “The budget I voted for two years ago failed, the one I voted against last year passed. I figured, why not?”

“This budget is guaranteed to pass now,” he joked.

But if it doesn’t and the district is forced to operate under a contingency budget, as it has two of the past six years, the spending plan picture gets grim.

A contingency budget would eliminate all athletics except for high school varsity teams, subject area leaders, a high school employee, an elementary school position, a clerical position, field trips at the elementary schools and certain equipment.

It would also call for reductions in professional development and co-curricular programs, school officials warned.

Also on the May ballot will be two capital improvement projects. One would improve drainage at Briarcliff Elementary School to reduce the deterioration of asphalt and reduce dangerous icing on the driveway leading up to the school. That project would cost about $66,100.

The other project, costing $825,000 would be the replacement of six oil tanks that are an average of 44 years old. Mr. Costas said the average life of such tanks should be 18 to 20 years, and the price to replace them would dramatically increase should the tanks begin to leak.

Both projects are zero levy propositions, meaning if voters approve them, taxes will not increase.

The statewide budget vote is May 17.

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