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Decrease in state aid causes minor changes to SWR’s $83M budget for 2022-23

The Shoreham-Wading River School District will receive a smaller percentage of state aid than originally projected, resulting in a slight increase to the tax levy in the 2022-23 budget, according to Glen Arcuri, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

Mr. Arcuri said the district learned of the change after New York State adopted its $221 billion budget late last week — nine days after the April 1 deadline — and said the increase to the tax levy was of no fault to the district. The district had originally been projected to receive $15.08 million in state aid. That total, however, will now be $14.95 million following the state budget adoption.

The tax levy, which still does not pierce the cap, is now set at 1.7028%. The school board unanimously approved adopting the 2022-23 budget at Tuesday’s meeting and district residents will be asked to vote May 17 to approve the $83 million spending plan. The budget represents a 2.87% increase compared to the current 2021-22 budget. The increase is slightly lower than originally projected during earlier budget presentations due to the decrease in state aid. The district originally proposed an $83.07 million budget.

The district modified its plan to add three school nurses so that each school building would have two nurses. Instead, the district will eliminate one of those proposed positions and hire a shared nurse between the two elementary buildings as a way to reduce salary. Each elementary building will still have a full-time nurse.

Superintendent Gerard Poole said the district had already been planning for the event that it could not find three qualified nurses to fill the added positions.

“We can definitely provide the coverage with that one shared nurse,” Mr. Poole said, adding that scheduling will be staggered so that a nurse is available on each day where late after-school activities are planned at one of the elementary school buildings.

Mr. Arcuri the state budget will restore 50% of Foundation Aid in 2022-23 and is expected to restore the remaining 50% for 2023-24. Foundation Aid was created in 2007 and “takes school district wealth and student need into account to create an equitable distribution of state funding to schools,” according to the state. New York, however, had not fully funded Foundation Aid. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced in October that the state had reached an agreement to fully fund the Foundation Aid formula over three years.

“That’s definitely going to help our budgeting process for 2023-24,” Mr. Arcuri said.

“We will be fully funded based on the original formula,” he added. “That’s a step in the right direction for us.”

The net in state aid was still a decrease despite the bump in Foundation Aid, Mr. Arcuri said. The decrease stemmed largely from building aid.

“It’s very, very rare to see a reduction inside of state aid from the executive run to the final budget,” Mr. Arcuri said. “I was very confident that it was not going to happen. We have not even gotten a full budget detail to figure out what was the change between the executive run for building aid and the final run for building aid.”

Board member Michael Lewis asked if the district could appeal. Mr. Arcuri said it’s unlikely the state would reverse course, and if the district did happen to find an error, that total would be given back to the district in the next budget for 2023-24.

“Historically it’s very, very rare that is going to happen,” he said.

The school board also approved a resolution Tuesday to award a universal pre-kindgergarten program to Saint Anselm’s Academy in Shoreham for the 2022-23 year. The district received state and federal grant funding to allow for 32 students to enter the UPK program.

Some good news emerged as the district just learned it will receive an increase in grant allocation from $172,800 to $405,000. That will allow for an additional 43 students to enter the UPK program, for a total of 75. Mr. Poole said the district only learned of the change Sunday.

The district will have to do another request for proposals to find a UPK provider for the additional students. The district will hold a lottery May 3 for the additional slots.

Mr. Poole said he hopes to identify the UPK provider in early to mid-May. It could turn out that the district uses a different provider in addition to St. Anselm. Mr. Poole said it’s not uncommon in larger districts for multiple UPK providers to be used, since once program may not have space for the entire district.

“No one anticipated getting this type of increase,” Mr. Arcuri said, noting the challenges to now accommodate additional students after the district already reached an agreement with St. Anselm.

Mr. Arcuri also noted that the grant money for UPK is not handled in the general fund, but rather in a special aid fund, so the money is not included in the revenue budget.