The will present a budget for the 2012-13 school year to voters that meets the requirements of the state tax levy cap after a successful round or talks with bargaining units and an increase in state aid helped achieve the necessary figures.
“Through this budget process,we had a lot of help,” assistant superintendent for business Michael Frank said during the NHP-GCP regular board of education meeting at the on April 16. “Some of it was things that we did and we were successful with and other things just serendipitously occurred that worked in our favor.”
The budget adopted by the board for 2012-13 is $34,494,380, a 2.88 percent increase, which meets the as derived through a complex formula. The district had a budget of $33,527,125 for the 2011-12 school year.
“It does not mean that your taxes will only go up by 2 percent, it does not mean that the school district can only ask for 2 percent more, it just means that this one line in the formula can only go up by the lesser of 2 percent or CPI,” Frank said.
Using an average assessed value of a home in the district provided by the Nassau Assessor’s office, the difference the homeowner would pay between a passed budget and the contingency would be $82.01 a year.
In order for a school district to go above their cap, they must have a supermajority (60 percent or above) of the vote. It still requires only a simple majority to pass a budget that is within the levy cap. The NHP-GCP board had instructed administrators this year to adhere to the cap limit set.
One month prior at the March 12 meeting the district , a 3.78 percent increase and 3.98 percent on the levy. During that time the district had come to a series of agreements with bargaining units, tying to save a then-additional $300,148 to meet the levy cap, but also received an increase in the amount of state aid in the interim.
At the March 12 meeting the projected amount of state aid the district would receive was $3,854,075. As of April 16 it was $4,018,070, an increase of $163,995.
Frank also stated that the district had reached an accord on a “flat rate dollar contribution” for health insurance instead of a prorated contribution percentage, with various bargaining unit absorbing increases as well as the elimination of a salary schedule for all new hires, granting the district the ability to hire an individual at any salary deemed appropriate by the board of education.
He also credited the refinancing of the district’s debt, saving $1.5 million and the combining of the positions of the district directors of technology and curriculum & instruction into one position as saving funds.
“We budgeted the best that we could and those other influences which are really coming to us from the state, from the county and from the federal government have a very strong impact on what budget we’re presenting to you today,” he said.
Frank said that if retirement and health contributions remained flat as well as no loss in federal funding or a shift in certiorari, the budget would be facing a $49,134 increase, or 0.15 percent and a levy decrease of 0.47 percent.
In the adopted 2012-13 budget the district will maintain academic programs and support services, its core instructional programs of English Language Arts, math, social studies and science as well as the arts and music programs. Class sizes of 22-27 in primary and 25-29 in grades four through six would also remain. The current average class size for K through six is 21 students, with the lowest being 14 in kindergarten and one second grade class of 27 students.
“All of our staff will stay in place also,” superintendent Robert Katulak said, noting that the “driving focus for all budget expenditures” is the the district has in place. “None of the teachers are being cut nor the teaching assistants or clerical or custodians as a result of this budget.”
The bulk of the district’s capital work will begin in June and go through August as part of the capital reserve project that residents voted on last year.
The district is currently working to align the common core learning standards to its existing curriculum and is providing ongoing training for all instructional support staff in order to meet the response to intervention mandates and to keep the focus on “continuous improvement” for students.
Teachers will continue to implement the response to intervention program which is “designed to meet the needs of diverse learners in the mainstream classroom without having to have a designation of a classification,” Katulak said.
The response to intervention program is officially required in September 2012, but NHP-GCP has been running the program for over a year-and-a-half. The district currently has three intervention programs: Read 180, Systems 44, Wilson Reading and FASTT Math. It has also just purchased for implementation next year “Fraction Nation,” which is fluency in fractions.
The purchase of 30 new computer workstations is planned for the expansion of the computer labs at New Hyde Park Road and Hillside Grade and implementing the new APPR plan, which must begin on July 1. In 2012-13, each district must conduct an “alternative assessment” on the computer and electronically marked for immediate feedback to inform instruction as part of the “Race to the Top” initiative. The district will also be working on the creation of formative assessments and benchmarks to meet “Race to the Top” assessments.
“The plan for New York State next year is that all of the New York State assessments... will probably be on computers so we need to have sufficient computers to administer that test,” Katulak said.
Teachers will also be working on integrating thematic units into their curriculum plans.
“A thematic unit would be, say, take the concept of ‘change’ and you at how this change applied to social studies, to science, to ELA, to math in the curriculum that the students are doing and they’ll answer four guiding questions based on the work of... what is change? how des change affect me, how can I control change and how does change work outside of the world of the NHP-GCP School District?,” the superintendent explained.
Another item for which the district had to budget is $108,000 in tax certiorari settlements in 2012-13. These settlements occur when residents and businesses challenge their tax bill and assessments and the county makes adjustments for their mistakes and people are reimbursed for paying an excess amount of tax. Previously the county would make up the difference for the schools since it controlled the assessing, yet after the repeal, school districts would have to fund and pay the county back for any moneys they reimburse on their behalf.
NHP-GCP also lost $187,000 from the pulled Federal Education Jobs Act, which would have been used for the science labs and which it now must absorb itself.
“This is a big effort, not just on the board of ed but the entire staff, administration, all of those involved. They really worked almost in like a vacuum to get to this,” board of education president Ernest Gentile said. “It really was pretty difficult and we had certain numbers that we were looking at just a month ago that we didn’t think that we could ever get to this.”
If a contingency budget were to be in place, that is if the proposed budget either fails at the polls twice or if the proposed budget fails on the first ballot and the board does not wish to hold a second vote, the board would be forced to cut the budget to arrive at a zero percent levy increase and cut a further $788,000. Under contingency, no equipment purchases can be made, and a per use fee would be charged to all persons and groups wishing to use any of the school facilities or grounds and fields.
“There is no way that if we have to cut $788,000 that we can honor the requests of the community,” Frank said of maintaining class sizes and programs. “We would not be able to hold true to that.”