Written by Rich Forestano Thursday, 02 May 2013 00:00
The proposed $86.1 million Mineola School District 2013-14 budget hasn’t changed a great deal since it was first presented, but the year-to-year tax increase dropped two-tenths of a percent, to 2.18 since it was adopted by the school board.
The district’s tax levy is the fifth lowest in Nassau County, while Mineola’s six-year tax increase average is sixth lowest. The budget currently represents a 2.56 percent increase over last year’s figure, according to District Superintendent Michael Nagler. The budget will be up for a public vote on May 21.
Mandated increases from the state do not give Mineola wiggle room, but the district is confident that it can budget accordingly, despite getting a nearly flat state aid rate year-to-year. Nagler estimated health and pension costs totaled $2.8 million.
Mineola will receive $5,405,748 in state aid, a $385,748 increase from last year. This comes after the state first reported that the district would receive about $4.4 million, which originally amounted to a .58 percent increase.
“There’s an exemption on anything over 2 percent” [in pension costs}, Nagler said. “That’s where the number gets inflated. When you look around the county, you’ll see numbers as high as 3.9 in some places because of the exemption piece in the budget.”
By deferring STEP increases stipulated in the teachers contract settled in November, the school district has a $250,000 fund balance surplus. Teachers are deferred STEP increases for the first six months, staying at a 2011-12 salary.
Starting in the 2013-14 school year, teachers will get a .5 percent increase with STEP paid in February until 2014-15. The budget has $217,000 allocated towards equipment at the middle school and high school.
Nagler recommended that 20 full-time aides be excessed. Aides receive a 3.5 percent STEP each year.
The aide unit has received a 14 percent increase on average for every member during negotiations and has not been excessed. No aide has achieved the maximum STEP of 25, according to Nagler.
The budget includes all educational and co-curricular, athletic and extracurricular programs. Mineola has pledged to maintain all programs years before the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap was enacted by the state legislature in 2011. Nagler said the district plans on replacing five-year-old equipment as well as implement a wireless infrastructure at Mineola High School, Hampton Street, Jackson Avenue and Meadow Drive schools.
The district is planning to install a diesel pumping station at its bus garage, rather than have to get gas off site. District officials estimated that Mineola spends about $17,000 per year to drive and get gas.
“I think one of the hallmarks of this budget that we’re going to look back on is taking on our own fuel depot,” Trustee Artie Barnett said. “Once we are buying it in bulk, we’re no longer spending $17,000 to drive to get fuel and come back. The return on investments will take a couple years, after that it will be pure savings.”
The district plans to expand its iPad initiative to Jackson Avenue, using funds from a management efficiency grant it attained last December. Mineola received the $213,129 grant for the 2012-13 school year from the New York State Education Department because of cost streamlining initiatives related to school consolidation.
Sixteen school districts in New York State attained the grant. Approximately 38 districts applied for the grant.
Mineola plans on adding a section of the 5-day 1/2-day pre-K program, something Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted before the state budget was adopted. Cuomo’s pre-K proposal called for spending an extra $25 million to help high-needs school districts start programs for children age 4 or older, or expand existing half-day programs to a full day.