Shoreham-Wading River adopts $62.6M spending plan

SAMANTHA BRIX FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen and school board president Bill McGrath during a meeting earlier this year.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board will be putting a $62.6 million budget for the 2012-13 school year up to voters in May.

The proposed budget was approved at Tuesday night’s board meeting at the middle school, where the board also voted to allocate extra funds from state aid into a capital improvements budget line to be incorporated in the proposed budget.

The adopted budget was described by school officials as a “rollover” budget, meaning the district will not be reducing teaching staff or programs. Yet the spending plan stays below the state mandated 2 percent tax levy cap from year to year thanks to surplus funds.

The tax levy cap limits the total amount of money the district can collect from district taxpayers. Shoreham-Wading River’s tax levy will increase by 1.74 percent under the adopted budget, keeping it under the cap.

The adopted budget was slightly different from the budget superintendent Steven Cohen presented to the board due to an unexpected $302,000 increase in state aid that came last week. Under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget, the school would have seen nearly $8 million in state aid, but the state budget passed last week gives the district more than $8.2 million in aid.

Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham), who lives within the Shoreham-Wading River School District, said the state aid increase came from a decision by legislators to pull $200 million from a “challenge grant” program, funds that were set aside to be used as grants to entice districts to make certain changes with the promise of state funding. Not many districts were going for the money, and that fund now has only $50 million in it.

Of all the district’s within Mr. Losquadro’s area, Shoreham-Wading River saw the largest percentage increase in state aid, up by 3.99 percent from Mr. Cuomo’s proposed budget in January. Mr. Losquadro said the district received a higher increase to make up for previous years when the district was denied state aid it rightfully deserved.

“We just want to make sure they are being treated the same as the districts around them,” he said. “It’s really just a question of equity.”

Shoreham-Wading River school board president William McGrath said the district decided to use the extra funds towards school repairs, adding it was the only option the board seriously considered.

“We still have a lot of work we still need to do on our buildings,” Mr. McGrath said, adding that the middle school, while being in “the best shape,” is leaking water in places and needs repairs.

The new budget is a 4.47 percent spending increase from last year’s budget. Because staffing levels will remain the same, Dr. Cohen said district schools should have about the same class sizes as the 2011-12 school year. Shoreham-Wading River will not have to cut staff or programs next year because the district will pull about $3.75 million from its reserve funds and savings as tax relief, about double the amount the district used during the 2011-12 school year.

School officials have said more than $16 million remain in the various reserve funds.

The district also prepared a contingency budget, which would be floated if the original budget were voted down by voters. Because the district would be forced to hold the tax levy at its current level, the district would have to cut an additional $830,875 from its budget under a contingency plan.

The cuts would eliminate all equipment purchases, the capital funds for improvements, one clerical position and two teachers, among other cuts. An original contingent budget that suggested cutting athletic programs was amended following feedback from the board.

The school budget vote will be held on May 15.

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