Remsenburg adopts its budget

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The Remsenburg/Speonk School Board adopted an $11.3 million budget for the 2008-2009 school year on Monday night, a plan that will increase spending by nearly 9 percent if approved by district taxpayers in May. The proposed budget will increase school taxes in the district by approximately 3.7 percent.

With the current year’s operating budget coming in at $10.4 million, next year’s budget represents an almost $900,000 increase in overall spending. The school district taxes reflect this increase, as the tax rate will jump from $4.29 per $1,000 of assessed value this year to $4.45 per $1,000 next year.

Eligible district residents will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed budget on Tuesday, May 20, from 3 until 9 p.m., at the elementary school on Mill Road. District Superintendent Katherine Salomone noted that there will also be a spring art show that night.

School Board members adopted the budget by a 5-0 margin on Monday evening after deliberating on the amount of funding that should be allotted to the school’s technology program. They ultimately decided to earmark $248,195 for the program, or $47,051 more than the current school year, a 23.4 percent increase.

Ms. Salomone explained that the computer server currently in use has surpassed its life expectancy and does not have enough capacity to store school data. She went on to say that a “big chunk” of the technology budget, or about $10,000, is needed to replace the server.

Ms. Salomone noted that this year the district will begin replacing some of its obsolete equipment, adding that it is unclear at this point if the district will be leasing or buying new computers. “We’re doing research on that now,” Ms. Salomone said.

The superintendent explained that the laptops used by the school’s sixth-graders are between 5 and 7 years old. Through the district’s laptop initiative, which began in 2005, sixth-graders are given laptop computers that they are allowed to take home. The computers are then returned to the district at the end of the year.

This year’s budget allowed $29,036 for equipment, while next year’s proposed budget more than doubles the allotment to $62,000.

Salaries for the school’s teachers have increased as well. This year’s salaries for all the teachers in the district totaled $1.61 million, while next year’s budget allows $1.77 million, an approximately 10 percent increase in spending.

Ms. Salomone attributed this jump in the budget to contractual agreements. The district is also hiring four ?more teachers next year, two of which are full-time posts. One teacher will serve as a speech pathologist while the second full-time post will go to a ?teaching assistant. The district also plans to hire a part-time special education teacher and a part-time teaching assistant.

The district’s $715,000 in parking lot renovations, approved last month by taxpayers, are not included in next year’s spending plan. That project will be paid for using leftover funding in the district’s capital and unreserved funds, according to Brenda Petrolito, the district business manager.

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