At its final budget meeting for the 2011-2012 fiscal year held on Tuesday, March 8, the Garden City Board of Trustees moved to approve several proposals, which have been laid out during its recent series of public work sessions. The budget set forth will yield a village tax increase of less than 2 percent – down from last year’s 2.2 percent increase.
Starting from a zero assumption, the village’s current budget stands at $53,739,000, Trustee Andrew J. Cavanaugh said. The board dissected that number by area, including the library, Police Department and Fire Services, and voted on respective proposals to make adjustments to that zero-based budget.
It was an artful feast for the eyes as hundreds of works were on view during the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection’s art auction and fundraiser held last month. A crowd of art lovers and Garden City residents turned out en masse to bid on a variety of items, from landscapes and still lifes to sports, music, and entertainment memorabilia.
The auction, conducted by the professionals from AJ Ross Auctions, was a rousing success, with approximately 65 pieces of art sold. The annual event raised over $11,000 and proceeds will be donated toward the medical expenses of 21-year-old Jessica Stevens, a church member and Garden City resident, who is battling severe complications from Lyme disease (www.hopeforjessicablogspot.com).
The Garden City Village Election was held on Tuesday, March 15. Polls were open from noon until 9 p.m., as residents turned out in record numbers to elect the four Community Agreement candidates over Garden City Residents Party candidates, Ronald Tadross, Raymond Rudolph and Tom Trypuc.
The official village election numbers were as follows: Donald T. Brudie - Mayor 1,885 received votes; John A. Demaro - Trustee 1,642 votes; Laurence J. Quinn - Trustee 1,646 votes; Dennis C. Donnelly - Trustee 1,706 votes; Andrew J. Cavanaugh - Trustee 1,656 votes. Garden City Residents Party candidates Raymond J. Rudolph received 861 votes; Ronald A. Tadross - 861 votes; and Thomas J. Trypuc - 811 votes.
It was no ordinary school day for students at Garden City High School last week. According to Garden City Police reports, police officers responded to the high school for a report of a bomb threat on Tuesday, March 1 at approximately 9 a.m. School and police personnel searched the building and deemed it safe at approximately 11 a.m., according to police.
School Board President Colleen Foley reacted to the bomb threat at last Wednesday’s board meeting. “I would like to thank the police department and the first responders, as well as the efficient and safe handlings of the staff at the high school. As a result of their actions, everyone ended up safe at the end of the day,” Foley said.
Foley recounted the day’s events telling the audience that she received a phone call from the Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen, who informed her of a bomb threat situation at the high school. She reiterated that she and board members were in contact with Dr. Feirsen every 15 or 20 minutes as he was at the high school. She also spoke to the commissioner of Garden City Police every half hour through the course of that day.
On Wednesday, March 2, the Garden City School District held the third in a series of school budget work sessions for the 2011/12 academic year. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen presented recommendations that addressed the instructional components of the school budget. The proposal includes the elimination of 13.2 full-time teaching positions (FTE), as well as an increase in class size guidelines from 25 to 26.
Feirsen addressed the speculation in the community regarding the news of teacher reductions, which he said is due to enrollment decreases. “The only way for us to do a good job reducing our budget numbers, the rate of increase, is to get a handle on our personnel and we’re doing that,” Feirsen said. “It would be imprudent of us, it would be counter to the wishes of the community for us to maintain staffing if the student population is going down,” he added.
New York State Senator John Flanagan, chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, and Senator Jack M. Martins, chair of the Standing Committee on Local Government, co-sponsored a hearing on Feb. 17 in Mineola to accumulate best practices and suggestions to take back to Albany with regard to reducing Property Taxes in New York. Some of the pressures on local government and school district budgets are directly tied to mandated costs. It follows that reduction in property taxes is linked to unfunded Mandate Relief, especially in light of the 2 percent tax cap approved by the New York State Senate in January.The recent Senate approval of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s tax cap that calls for capping the yearly growth of school and local taxes at 2 percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less, was the impetus for the hearing.
Everyone in Garden City has heard and read quite a bit over the last several years about the looming destruction of St. Paul’s School. Built in 1883 by the widow of Alexander Turney Stewart, the former boys’ school is officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places and yet is in grave danger of being demolished. It is clear that the proposed demolition has more to do with a lack of consensus among the village’s residents on what exactly to do with this landmark than a concerted resolve to destroy the remarkable Victorian Gothic masterpiece. At what may very well be the eleventh hour, it is perhaps worthwhile to consider what Garden City would be like without St. Paul’s.
It was nearly midnight before the Garden City Board of Education wrapped up their general meeting and second school budget work session last Wednesday. The audience, mostly comprised of parents and residents, listened as the board moved through a full agenda of items. Among the most important topics were the mandate relief initiative led by School Board Trustees Angela Heineman and Laura Hastings, the superintendent’s second installment of budget recommendations and the surprise resignation of School Board Trustee Laura Brown.
The meeting began with an update from Trustees Angela Heineman and Laura Hastings who talked about their meeting with a coalition of Nassau County schools known as the Long Island Educational Advocacy District. The purpose of the group is to advocate legislation for property tax reform. “We feel in our collective group, assuming the tax levy cap is an inevitability, the way to make property tax relief truly meaningful is to have some sort of mandate reform go along with that. With that end, we put together a letter that each of the participating districts is going to send to Governor Cuomo,” she explained.
In a little more than three months, the village will finally unveil its upgraded veterans’ memorial to honor the many brave men and women who have served our country. Last week, the village board unanimously approved expenditures not to exceed $20,000 for the complete installation of a new and improved monument in time for Memorial Day.
Early in 2010, under the leadership of Committee Chair and Village Board Trustee Dennis Donnelly and a committee of residents and trustees, a plan was designed to upgrade, rehabilitate and relocate the current veterans’ memorial.
Vietnam veteran and Garden City resident Cyril Smith originally proposed the idea in January of 2010 as a way to pay homage to those veterans who lost their lives in wartime. The new memorial will be placed opposite the current WWII War Memorial on Seventh Street in the village.
Spring hasn’t arrived yet, but the school budget season has. Superintendent of Garden City Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen held the first in a series of school budget presentations for the 2011/12 academic year. The proposal includes an overall budget of $101,117,058, with a budget-to-budget increase of $3,128,568 or 3.19 percent. The projected tax levy increase (with STAR) is 2.71 percent.
This year’s overview and revenue projections were clearly influenced by the current fiscal climate, NYS projections for state aid, pension, health insurance and other mandates, according to Dr. Feirsen. “This is called the superintendent’s budget because it hasn’t been touched by the board of education. It is really what I have prepared for the board. There are citizens’ comments that we encourage and respond to over the next several weeks. We encourage participation from organized parent groups in the community and, ultimately the board will adopt a budget that will be presented to the voters,” Feirsen said.
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