SWR schools to tap reserves to hold the line on taxes

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River school board president Bill McGrath and trustee Richard Pluschau. School officials presented a proposed school budget for next school year with a tax levy increase of 1.75 percent at the district's first budget workshop meeting Tuesday night.

Next school year’s planned budget at Shoreham-Wading River maintains all of the programs and services in place this school year and raises the tax levy just 1.75, safely beneath the state-mandated 2 percent tax levy cap.

School officials proposed a nearly $62.4 million budget for the upcoming school year at the district’s first budget workshop meeting Tuesday night. The proposed budget is 3.98 percent higher than this school year’s budget.

“We’re presenting a budget that supports all of our programs by asking the community to support a tax levy increase of 1.75,” superintendent Steven Cohen said.

It’s estimated that the district plans to pull $2 million from its reserves this year — twice as much as last year — to close gaps between the proposed budget and spending increases in line items. Though specific line items weren’t presented Tuesday, school officials noted that the biggest chunk of the budget will come from employee salaries and benefits.

Board members discussed adding new services next school year like clubs, field trips and foreign language classes in the elementary schools, hiring additional security guards and creating a capital project budget line for a high school roof repair, which Glen Arcuri, director of finance and operations, called a “high-need item.”

They also suggested adding a capital project budget line for technology, since the state education department is imposing new technology requirements for the 2014-15 school year.

“To satisfy the new technology requirements in ’14-’15, let’s start making upgrades now,” board president Bill McGrath said. “I think that’d be more of a practical process.”

Board members and school officials will further discuss additions to the proposed budget before adding a capital project budget line.

“I think we have a very good starting point here,” Mr. McGrath said.

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