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Island Trees Schools Adopt Budget

District staying under 2 percent tax cap

In a special meeting held on March 27 in the Stephen E. Karopczyc School in Levittown, the Island Trees school board adopted a budget of $57,925,136 with a 1.99 percent property tax cap levy for the 2012-13 school year.

Board President Patricia Mahon announced that 1.60 percent of the 1.99 percent total tax levy increase would be eaten up by staff step raises, leaving just 0.39 percent for additional expenditures. Step raises are owed to custodial and clerical staff, among others.

During the budget discussions held throughout March, Island Trees Superintendent Charles Murphy acknowledged that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent tax-cap bill that limits local property tax increases to just 2 percent annually or the rate of inflation, was a game-changer in the budget discussions this year, and that tough choices would need to be made to keep the district under the cap for 2012-13.

The new tax cap meant that school budget talks started early this year in Island Trees, and numerous cost-saving measures were considered to get the final tally under 2 percent. Two teaching positions at the elementary school level will be excessed, based on seniority, and Peter Gibbons’ position as Island Trees District director of music and fine arts, won’t be replaced.  

Gibbons, a beloved Island Trees administrator who is retiring after 16 years of dedicated service to the district, has a 2011-12 salary of $152,841, so the decision to not replace his position for 2012-13 represents a significant savings to the district.  In the board meeting held prior to the March 27 gathering, several residents and students pleaded to the board to consider the value of the district director of music and fine arts position, and to consider arts and music as important components of the curriculum offered in Island Trees. Murphy responded that many cost-saving measures were considered, and that the board looked for cuts that would have the least impact on the students’ overall education.

Items that were considered “luxuries” were the top items facing elimination, and the main cut in that category was vocal lessons at the middle-school level.  Chorus at the middle-school level will still be offered and remain unchanged, but separate vocal lessons will no longer be available.

Athletics at the middle-school level also will remain unchanged, but the high school golf team is expected to be eliminated due to staggering transportation costs.  In early-March, Mahon shot down the idea of the team “carpooling” to get to practices and tournaments, citing safety concerns. “In the past, we have felt that with transportation, if a kid gets in another kid’s car and there’s an accident, it would be very problematic,” Mahon said. “You don’t want to see that happen.”

The Island Trees community will have the opportunity to vote on the 2012-13 school budget in mid-May.