Written by Daniel Offner Thursday, 06 March 2014 00:00
Members of the Island Trees School District Board of Education are currently mulling a proposed $59.6 million spending plan for the 2014-2015 school year, which would increase the district’s spending by .82 percent from last year. According to Island Trees
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Murphy, the tax levy for the 2014-2015 year is also estimated to increase by .82 percent, which he boasted falls well below the 2 percent tax levy threshold mandated by the state.
At the first of an ongoing series of budget workshops, on Feb. 26, board members highlighted sections of the proposed 2014-2015 budget, including the Island Trees Public Library, Arts and Music programming, Curriculum and Instruction and Supplies, to try and find any savings.
“Staff input has really helped with [the district’s] decision making,” Murphy said.
Elizabeth Romer, administrator of educational programs, literacy, and staff development, said that the single biggest expense for the curriculum and instruction portion of the budget will be textbooks. According to Romer, she was able to reduce the total cost of the curriculum budget by roughly $3000 by reducing the order of textbooks from 75 to approximately 60.
Since, New York State first implemented the Common Core Learning Standards, school districts, including Island Trees, have piloted the new textbooks, Wonders and Journeys, which focus on the state’s English Language Arts curriculum for students in grades K-5.
According to Murphy the district currently plans to spend roughly $270,000 to purchase these new reading series.
“We feel it will be beneficial for our students,” Murphy added.
Some other expenses discussed included the purchase of electronic devices at the library, new keyboards for music theory students, new stage lighting, a new art class, dry-erase markers, and several other materials and supplies for teachers in the district.
Apart from the proposed expenditures, the biggest factor driving up the Island Trees spending plan includes the cost to the district’s Teacher Retirement System. According to Assistant Superintendent for Business Susan Hlavenka, the district’s TRS costs increased by 10.2 percent from last year. She added that while the district also anticipates a “comfortable increase” in health insurance costs, they do not know how much it will cost as of press time. “We estimated 8 percent, but it could be as high as 10 percent” Hlavenka said.
“We don’t know.”
With more than a month remaining before the state budget deadline, on April 24, the Island Trees Board of Education plans to hold three more workshops. The next Island Trees School District budget workshop will be held on March 5, at 7 p.m. inside the conference room at the Stephen E. Karopczyc school, located at 74 Farmedge Road in Levittown.