Written by Michael Scro and Rich Forestano Friday, 18 April 2014 00:00
The Levittown Board of Education unanimously adopted a $198.7 million spending plan for the 2014-2015 school year, which comes with a proposed tax levy increase of 1.62 percent. This represents a $2.1 million increase from last year, for a proposed levy of $133.2 million.
The Levittown school district will receive $49,163,299 in state aid for the 2014-2015 school year, which increased by $690,049 from last year’s budget. The other revenues also show an increase of $684,250 from last year.
In the past seven years, the district received its largest percentage of state aid in 2008-2009 with 30 percent. According to Assistant Superintendent Bill Pastore, state aid has decreased since then, leveling off for the past few years and coming in at slightly below 25 percent for 2014-15.
The primary source of revenue for the district is the tax levy and state aid while fund balance and reserves and other revenues contribute the least. Pastore presented a five-year budget projection, which he described as “critically important to the health of our district.”
Where Pastore displayed “surplus deficit spending,” it projected a proposed -$6,447,238 for 2014-2015 to increase to -$7,932,215 by 2018-2019.
“This is important to note because it means we’re using fund balance to finance some of our expenditures,” Pastore said. “We have to be careful and vigilant in using these projections to look forward and make sure we don’t get ourselves in a position where we’ve overspent the budget and have to make reductions we may not want to make.”
Although the district proposes a fund balance of $30,009,782 for the 2014-2015 school year, it projects that it will fall in the red, dropping to an anticipated fund balance of -$260,485 by the 2018-2019 school year.
“We’re going to have to face some tough decisions, and it's going to be a challenge as budgets move forward,” Levittown Schools Superintendent Dr. James Grossane said. “Eventually, its going to affect programs... that goes without saying.”
Grossane suggested taking advantage of the fact that the district has two high schools—Division Avenue and MacArthur—by looking into magnet and PILOT programs to help ensure the district can maintain enrollment.
As an example, Grossane mentioned that as of next year, AP Chemistry will be run exclusively out of Division Avenue High School, which will require MacArthur students go there to take it.
“That is a combination of what Governor Cuomo has saddled every district in this state with,” said School Board Secretary Ed Powers. “There is nothing more poignant than this five year projection slide... take this information, show it to your friends and neighbors, and call Albany.”
School Board Vice President Peggy Marenghi said that given what is going on in the state, she predicts that half of all school district will hit a brick wall before Levittown does. “That is going to force the hand of Albany to do something in the next five years,” she said.
During the presentation, Pastore went back to 2006-2007—before the tax cap was implemented—showing the district had a tax levy increase of 3.96 percent, and a budget-to-budget increase of 3.93 percent. “Our tax levy is limited, and therefore, that drives our budget, which is a limited,” Pastore said.
The major components of the district’s spending plan for 2014-15 includes a $876,953 increase in salaries, a $1,081,540 increase in BOCES services for the special education department, and $1,743,500 in employee benefits. Reductions include a $836,914 decrease in contractual services and $208,839 decrease in tuition and training in the special education department. According to Pastore, refinancing bonds from last year also contributed to a $168,631 decrease in debt service.
Copies of the proposed 2014-2015 school budget will be made available by the district 14 days before voters will go to the polls on May 20.