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GC Superintendent Restores Elementary Class Size to 25

Projected Tax Levy Reduced to 2.58 Percent

In the last school budget work session of the year, Garden City Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen gave an overview of his final recommendations to his proposed 2011-12 school budget on April 6. Among the refinements presented to the Board of Education was the restoration of the class size guideline to 25 students at the elementary level and the lowering of the tax levy to 2.58 percent.

The proposed overall budget total remains the same at $101,117,058, with a budget-to-budget increase of $3,128,568 or 3.19 percent. Feirsen announced that the projected tax levy increase (with STAR) has been amended to 2.58 percent down from 2.71 percent. “That reflects $117,000 or so of additional state aid that we received since we last met with the board. So we applied all of that money to lowering the tax levy,” Feirsen said.

In previous budget sessions, considerable debate ensued regarding Feirsen’s proposal to raise class sizes at the elementary level to 26. During the meeting, Feirsen proposed that class sizes conform to the board guideline of 25. The restoration of the guideline was driven in part by funding provided by reductions in non-certificated staff and salary differentials between projected retiree and replacement and other non-personnel code reductions.

According to Feirsen, staff changes recommended include restoring one fourth-grade teacher and eliminating 12.3 full-time equivalent teachers, due to enrollment decreases and more efficient scheduling. “We have restored the teacher that we projected decreasing at Stratford; everything else will remain the same,” Feirsen said. In previous budget sessions, the possible elimination of the third guidance counselor at the middle school was discussed. Feirsen confirmed that eliminating that particular position was not in his 2011-12 recommendations.

Many residents and board members who previously advocated to restore class size thanked the superintendent for changing his previous recommendation. Board of Education President Colleen Foley commented, “I am pleased to see the recommendations of how we can put class size back to 25.”

A budget hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 10 and residents will have an opportunity to vote on the proposed budget on Tuesday, May 17. Feirsen explained that if the budget is voted down, the board has a choice to put it up again for a second time or choose not to. “In either case, if the budget fails, it goes to what is called the contingent budget,” Feirsen said.

He further explained that contingent budgets must be designed according to strict standards of the State of Education Department. The district would lose control over many of its budget and program decisions, he said. The contingent budget cap for allowable budget-to-budget increases for 2011-12 is 1.92 percent. To reach this figure, an additional $936,000 to $1.1 million would have to be cut.

The contingent budget would result in a budget increase of between 2.24 percent and 2.07 percent and a tax increase of between 1.52 and 1.33 percent, according to the district. The difference for the average home would be $96 to $113 per year or $8.03 to $9.44 per month.