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Board of Education Focuses on 2010-11 School Budget

Proposed Budget Would Increase Tax Levy 1.96 Percent

Budget concerns topped the agenda at a recent board of education meeting as Farmingdale Assistant Superintendent for Business Paul Defendini presented the district’s proposed budget for 2010-2011 at the Howitt Middle School in Farmingdale.

Noting the meeting’s low turnout of only about 15 residents, Defendini explained that district budget meetings have typically received little interest from the community despite being highly publicized. One resident, who did not want his name used, speculated that the fact that the meetings are not well attended is actually a good thing.

“The fact that there are few people here means that people are content with how the board is handling the district’s finances,” he said. “Overall, programs are well-funded, properly staffed and our taxes are reasonable. If things were different and people weren’t happy, this place would be filled.”

In presenting the 2010-2011 proposed budget of $148,954,370, an increase of $4.7 million from the approved 2009-2010 budget, Defendini said that the primary increases to the new budget were a result of increased salaries and benefits.

The proposed budget’s long-term objectives include sustainable programs and appropriate flexibility, protection from fluctuations in state aid and other variables as well as predictable and acceptable tax levies. State aid has traditionally been the largest source of district revenue but Defendini warned that future reductions in that aid could be on the horizon.  

However, he also pointed out recent budget successes, noting that with the approved budgets from 2006 to the present, budget increases have averaged around four percent while tax levies have hovered just above two percent. The proposed tax levy for 2010-2011 is 1.96 percent.

BOE president Shari Bardash-Eivers added that other districts’ tax levies will be up around eight, nine or even 10 percent.

Defendini went on to highlight the district’s budget priorities such as maintenance of current academic programs including a continuation of summer school and special education as well as support of needed capital improvements, such as window work at Farmingdale High School.

Underscoring the impact of the recession as well as the state’s current financial woes, Defendini explained that interest earnings on the district’s fund reserve have also been hit hard. “In the past, the district had earned nearly $4 million in interest,” he said. “This past year, that number fell to about $86,000.” He also added that the state’s poor financial health has been negatively affecting bond ratings for districts across the region.

In addition, Defendini stressed that a defeat of the proposed budget and the subsequent implementation of a contingent budget would mean radical changes in the district.

“The contingent budget would result in a loss of nearly $6 million that would impact the district in the form of decreased services and increased class sizes among many other undesirable changes,” he said.

District Superintendent John Lorentz agreed that a budget defeat would mean drastic service cuts.

 “A contingent budget could result in having 30-plus kids to a class, district-wide,” he said. “We would have no elementary music program as well as deep cuts to after-school activities. Farmingdale wouldn’t look like Farmingdale anymore.”

The board is not expected to adopt a budget until April. A final budget review and discussion session is scheduled for April 20 followed by a public hearing to present the adopted budget on May 11. The budget vote is set for May 18.

For more information on upcoming budget meetings and to view Defendini’s budget presentation, visit http://www.f armingdaleschools.com/fps/fps.cfm