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Slight Hike In Budget

Amid ever-increasing financial burdens facing schools throughout New York, including the state-mandated tax cap, the Farmingdale school board presented the first draft of its  budget for the 2013-14 school year, calling for a 1.87 percent tax increase over last year’s figure.

 Assistant Superintendent for Business Paul Defendini held an in-depth presentation of the proposed budget at a public workshop at Weldon E. Howitt Middle School, which he said was strenuously crafted this year to ensure the continued quality of education in the Farmingdale school district.

 “We had three key points when designing this new budget- one, to stay within the Tax Levy limit; two, maintain the current programs; three, utilize fund balance and reserves to meet those parameters,” he said. “That’s exactly what this budget does. There are no material changes or reductions to the programs next year, and no staff positions will be cut.”

 The proposed 2013-14 budget is $153,384,118, which is a 1.87 percent increase over the 2012-13 budget, which was $150,567,160. The present Tax Levy increase stands at 2.96 percent, which amounts to a total of $117,929,974.

 “We’ve been at the very bottom of tax levy increases within Nassau County for the last five years,” Defendini said. “Our tax levy increase in 2013-14 will be 2.96 percent, and I suspect most other Nassau school districts will be at or above that.”

 Defendini cited multiple financial obstacles that have contributed to the difficulty in creating recent school budgets, including the tax cap; a large increase in the amount of money schools are required to pay into the New York’s teacher pension fund; cuts in state aid; and an increase in the amount of unfunded federal, state, and county mandates.

 “The reality is, government in all forms is having a difficult time doing what they need to do, and they’re passing down a lot of their responsibilities to the local this case, the school districts,” he said. “This comes at a point in time where we’re having a difficult time absorbing the regular increases with the implementation of the tax cap.”

 The contingent budget, created as a back-up in the case that the main budget is defeated by public vote, was also covered. This plan would shave $3,390,372 from the current 2013-14 budget plan, knocking the overall figure down to $149,993,746.

 However, Defendini said, a reduction of this scope, applied to a budget already meticulously planned out to the very last cent, would result in drastic cuts that would affect students greatly.

 “We would have to reduce class size, elective opportunities, athletic teams, music groups, equipment, activities, support services...everything,” he said. “The community would definitely see a significant program impact due to that kind of a reduction.”

 Superintendent John Lorentz, commenting on the current budget draft, stated that the Farmingdale school district is taking a long-term approach when it comes to ensuring the high quality education parents have come to expect from them.

 “The budget is something that we develop all year long,” he said. “We pride ourselves in our multi-year budgeting aspect as we go forward and look to the future, because the decisions that we make each year have implications for the decisions that we’ll have to make in the future.”