East Quogue School Board Adopts $23 Million Budget

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The East Quogue Board of Education adopted a $23 million budget on April 17 that cuts positions in order to trim spending next school year.

The adopted budget, which was unchanged from the public hearing held on April 2, increases spending over the current year’s $22.4 million budget by 2.9 percent, and exceeds the state-mandated 2-percent cap on tax levy increases by 2.6 percent.

The budget, therefore, will require 60-percent approval from voting taxpayers when they head to the polls on Tuesday, May 21.

School Superintendent Les Black said steep hikes—the largest he has seen in his tenure—in contracted pension costs and employee benefits forced the district over the tax levy cap. He and the board were able to trim $1 million, partially by eliminating two teacher aide positions, a part-time librarian and a special education teacher, and reducing a full-time librarian position to part-time.

“Talk about cutting to the bone—we’re there,” he said. “There is really nothing left to cut.”

If the budget fails, the board will be forced to propose a second, amended budget that does not exceed the tax levy cap. The district would need to cut an additional $587,000, the equivalent of six or seven more positions, to do so. If the budget fails a second time, the board must adopt a contingency budget with a zero-percent tax levy increase—a devastating prospect, board members said.

The proposed budget would increase the tax rate by about 4.7 percent, from $10.37 to about $10.86 per $1,000 of assessed value. Business Administrator Elizabeth Lev said that estimate was based on the current year’s assessments, which are likely to change. Using that projection, an individual with a home valued at $500,000 would owe approximately $5,430 in school taxes during for the 2013-14 school year, about $240 more than the current year.

Mr. Black and the board members said they were willing to discuss their adopted spending plan at community meetings, and encouraged voters to contact them with any questions. A budget hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7, at 7:45 p.m. at the Central Avenue school.

“I think an educated voter is the one thing that we’re counting on to, hopefully, get this thing passed,” Mr. Black said.

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