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Superintendent Presents Fourth Round of Budget Recommendations

Adjustments in athletics proposed for 2012-13 school year

Technology, Guidance, Pupil Personnel Services and Athletics were among the highlighted expenditures discussed on Wednesday, March 8 at the Garden City School District’s fourth budget review session.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen presented the second part of the instruction components of the budget for the 2012-2013 school year to the Board of Education. The Garden City School District’s proposed 2012-2013 overall budget is $104,976,751, which represents a budget-to-budget increase of $3,859,693 or 3.82 percent. The projected tax levy increase (with STAR) is 4.25 percent and the maximum allowable tax levy is 4.3 percent.

In an era of financial distress and significant fiscal constraints, Feirsen explained the dilemma the district is facing. “Clearly, we have an instructional program of which we are proud, an instructional program that gives a great return on the investment to our community. Naturally, the board and the administration and, I think, our entire community has an interest in maintaining that kind of outstanding program,” he said.

“You have to balance the desire to give our kids absolutely the best of everything with the real factor that we have to provide a budget that our community can afford and support,” he added.

In previous budget presentations, Feirsen stated that the proposed 2012-13 budget preserves programs and proposes no major changes. He said the budget proposals call for zero building closures; maintains class sizes guidelines; retains special programs; maintains high school guidelines; preserves most co-curricular/athletics programs; and retains full-day kindergarten. It also utilizes reserves but does not deplete accounts and reduces staff judiciously as a result of reductions in district enrollment.

“We all face the same challenges, we all face the same dilemmas in this budget. There are no magic answers to this folks. Nobody is pulling rabbits out of the hat,” Feirsen said.

In the area of technology, the district announced several key accomplishments, most notably: it doubled its Internet bandwidth through BOCES BoTie program, while decreasing annual payments. It also installed a new IP phone system and redesigned the district’s website. Technology initiatives for 2012-2013 propose a districtwide area network (WAN) bandwidth to 10 gigs through the BOCES-led consortium. It will also continue expansion of wireless hotspots in all schools and support use of iPads/tablets in various classrooms.

Pupil Personnel Services features the special education program, which is the most regulated aspect of public education, Feirsen said. In addition to providing services to students who attend Garden City Public Schools, the district is required to provide services to both resident and non-resident students with disabilities enrolled in private schools within the school district’s borders.

The district noted the possible changes in special education funding. The 4201 (state-supported) schools such as Henry Viscardi School and Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf are no longer funded directly by New York State. As a result, the district will pay tuition costs for any student that the CSE would recommend for placement at a 4201 school. Feirsen said that although state aid will be provided, full reimbursement by the state is not guaranteed.

According to the district, Governor Cuomo has proposed to apportion increases in preschool special education costs equally among school districts, the state and the county. Currently the state assumes 59.5 percent of these costs and the county, 40.5 percent.

Feirsen highlighted many of the district’s accomplishments in athletics. Garden City Schools has been named the No. 1 athletic Program in Nassau County by Ultimate Athlete magazine. All 32 varsity teams achieved a scholastic average of 90 or better. The completion of a new grandstand and softball field at the high school were listed among the accomplishments in 2011-2012.

Among the adjustments in athletics were the elimination of 19 assistant coaches equaling $78,774; elimination of four head strength and conditioning coaches equaling $13,600 in reduction; elimination of six middle school intramural positions equaling $4,902. The combined reductions of staffing costs totals $97,276. In addition, the superintendent is proposing $24,000 in total miscellaneous reduction. Staffing reductions will be offset by the addition of 16 intramural positions for a cost of $26,114 and the total reduction in athletics budget equals $95,132.

In a previous board of education meeting, Feirsen announced that he estimated the average annual cost of tax certiorari settlements may cost  the district $1.5 million. On March 8, he offered further clarification on those costs.

“That figure took into account other taxing districts, villages, etc. that might have tax certioraris involved in that. The figure that we are using now, an estimate, would be around $900,000,” Feirsen said.

The next Garden City Board of Education meeting will be held on March 20 at 8:15 p.m. in the library of Garden City High School.