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Board of Education Adopts Budget With 1.96 Percent Tax Levy Increase

Residents Will Vote on Budget, Proposition Two on May 18

The Farmingdale Board of Education adopted the 2010/11 budget at a recent meeting, calling for a 1.96 percent tax levy increase.

With a sparse turnout of only seven people from the community, Assistant Superintendent for Business Paul Defendini offered a presentation of the 2010/11 proposed budget before the board adopted it. He noted the focus of the budget was to ensure that sustainable programs, accompanied by their long-term budgets in subsequent years to come, created the comprehensive need for flexibility and foresight when drawing up the proposed budget.

Defendini said the 2010/11 budget would increase by 3.27 percent from the 2009/10 budget, a $4,709,627 difference from budget to budget. The proposed budget for 2010-2011 stands at $148,954,370. Comparatively, the 2009-2010 budget was $144,244,743.

According to Defendini, $8.7 million will be taken from a combination of fund balance and reserve accounts as revenue that will allow the district to keep a low tax levy. Reserve accounts in the district combine for a total of about $28 million, Defendini said.

In last week’s edition of the Observer, an article entitled, “School Budget Proposes No Program Cuts or Teacher Layoffs” confused the reserve accounts, totaling $28 million, with a capital reserves account of $4 million. The article mistakenly stated the capital reserve account holds $40 million, when in actuality it holds $4 million. The $8.7 million will be taken from the reserve accounts totaling $28 million, not a capital funds account.

With high property taxes a major concern to local residents, the 1.96 percent property tax levy increase is more palatable than those of nearby districts.

“The average tax levy increase right now looks like it’s at about 4 percent across Long Island…but as we suspected when we began the process, our tax levy looks like it is going to be on the low side when compared to other districts across Long Island,” Defendini said.  

Teacher salaries and benefits are the primary reason school districts see their budget increase from year to year, Defendini said.

 “No surprise to anybody in here that almost the entire increase to the state of the budget for the upcoming year is broken out to paying salaries and employee benefits,” he said. “As educators and professionals the responsibility to educate students falls largely on people and that’s where the money winds up going.”

Along with voting on the budget, residents will be asked to vote on Proposition 2, to take $4 million from a capital reserve to replace windows at the high school. Work is tentatively set to begin in August and estimated to take one year to complete. An initial estimate from district architects is $4,085,543 for the projects but additional expenses vary and the district could end up paying less or more, Defendini said.

The board agreed to this capital project now because construction costs are low.

“They are making an effort to control costs,” a resident at the meeting said. “Where they haven’t made an effort to reduce costs on the budget is that salaries and benefits are still going up.”

Residents not already registered to vote may do so on May 8 from 3– 9 p.m. in the Howitt East Lobby.

A public hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 11 at 8 p.m. at Howitt East Cafeteria to discuss the adopted 2010-11 budget.

The budget vote and election will be held on Tuesday, May 18 in the Howitt East Gymnasium from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.