Hampton Bays Officials Predict Budget Shortfall For 2014-15 School Year


The Hampton Bays School District held its first budget workshop for the 2014-15 fiscal year Tuesday evening and early projections show two possible scenarios—both with the district coming up short in terms of cash.

Hampton Bays School District Business Administrator Larry Luce said that while the budget process still is developing and many factors are subject to change, based on the amount of funding Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed in his executive budget last month, it appears Hampton Bays will come up short and be forced to make cuts to its 2014-15 budget.

The one number that is certain is the tax levy cap, which will only allow the district to increase its tax levy by 1.468 percent next year over the previous year’s $47.1 million budget. With an increase in state funding of $387,000 under the governor’s proposal, the district could increase its budget by $893,115, to about $47.99 million, a 1.9-percent increase, next year. In this scenario, the district would be $175,000 shy of where it wants to be, according to Mr. Luce.

Legislation recently put forth by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth LaValle, however, would increase state funding for Hampton Bays by another $100,000, to $480,867, Mr. Luce said, allowing next year’s budget to increase by $986,982, to about $48.09 million, which equates to a 2.1-percent increase from the prior year. Under that scenario, the district would still find itself about $85,000 in the red.

Most likely, the amount of state funding Hampton Bays actually will receive will fall somewhere between Mr. Cuomo’s proposal and Mr. LaValle’s and Mr. Thiele’s request, Mr. Luce said.

The primary reasons for the projected budget increase include annual pay raises, as well as rising pension and worker compensation costs, Mr. Luce said. Transportation and security costs also are projected to increase next year, he said.

Schools Superintendent Lars Clemensen said there are a few desired staff changes coming up next year, including an additional fifth or sixth grade teacher, as well as two additional science classes and one more foreign language class at the high school. The new classes will be taught by teachers who currently split time between the high school and middle school. Those teachers would work at the high school full time next year.

Despite the projected shortfall, Mr. Luce said he is optimistic about the district’s budget prospects compared to this time last year, when the district was projecting a nearly $900,000 shortfall.

“It’s better than last year when we had to cut $900,000, so I’m kind of happy,” Mr. Luce said. “When I look at a shortfall of $175,000, it really doesn’t look so bad, but it’s still a shortfall.”

Although it appears unlikely that the State Legislature will end the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a program started in 2009 that reduces the amount of state aid that schools receive in order to pay down Albany’s operating deficit, Mr. Clemensen said he is still hopeful that it will be eliminated in the near future. He added that 275 emails have been sent to Mr. Thiele, Mr. LaValle and Mr. Cuomo as part of Hampton Bays School District’s “letter writing” campaign petitioning them to bring the GEA to an end.

The legislation put forth by Mr. LaValle and Mr. Thiele proposes that the GEA be ended for the 2015-16 school year, while Long Island school districts would get a slight break from it in 2014-15 school year.

“Any dollar that is taken away in state funding is replaced by taxpayers in Hampton Bays,” Mr. Clemensen said. “When we’re talking more state aid we aren’t talking about bags of cash that we can spend any way we want. We’re talking about lessening the burden on taxpayers in Hampton Bays.”

Snow Struggles

So far this winter, Hampton Bays students have had three snow days, four late starts and one early dismissal because of inclement weather, Mr. Clemensen said, which has cost the district both time and money.

Because their district has surpassed its two-day limit for snow days, students will have to report to school on Monday, April 14—which was originally supposed to be the first day of spring break in Hampton Bays.

The above average snowfall also has caused the district to shell out $3,100 toward contracted snow removal, Mr. Luce said, leaving just $900 in its budget for the remainder of the winter. The district also has used about $30,000, or half its budget for custodial overtime, since September, due in large part to the custodians having to work extra hours to clear snow, Mr. Luce said.

“If we get one more major storm after Thursday, we’re going to be pushing through our budget for this year,” he said, referring to the coming storm.

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