The Eastport South Manor Board of Education has adopted a proposed $92.6 million budget for the 2014-15 school year, a plan that increases overall spending by approximately $1.4 million, or 1.5 percent, over the current year’s $91.2 million budget.
The budget, which must still be approved by taxpayers in Eastport and Manorville on Tuesday, May 20, does not pierce the state’s tax cap, thanks, in large part, to a nearly 5.9-percent bump in state aid, or $1.9 million, which is now projected to increase from $32.5 million this year to $34.4 million next year, according to school officials. The bulk of the increase comes from some $840,000 in gap adjustment aid received by the district thus far.
Under the spending plan adopted last Wednesday night, April 23, the district’s tax levy is expected to climb by slightly more than 4 percent, from $48.9 million this year to $50.9 million next year. But due to the bump in state aid, and once other exemptions are factored in, the tax levy will come in under the state’s cap on tax levy increases, according to Schools Superintendent Mark Nocero.
The proposed plan, which comes with the lowest budget-to-budget increase in the merged district’s history, also cuts nine teaching positions. Mr. Nocero explained that those reductions were expected and needed due to a reduction in overall enrollment.
In a preview interview, Mr. Nocero said the district now has 313 sixth-graders, but only 238 kindergarten students. The kindergarten-through-fourth grade classes range in size from 238 to 283 students, while the fifth-through-12th grade classes all boast more than 300 kids, with the largest being the freshmen class with 332. Eastport South Manor now employs approximately 460 teachers.
“There are no program cuts,” Mr. Nocero said during last week’s board meeting. “The teacher cuts are just because of the populations of students.”
The budget adopted by the board came in about $2.1 million less than the original plan pitched by Mr. Nocero earlier this spring.
If approved as-is, residents living in the Southampton Town side of Eastport can expect the tax rate to increase by 45 cents, or 1.9 percent, from $23.23 to $23.68 per $1,000 of assessed value. Therefore, if assessments do not change, a taxpayer whose home is assessed at $400,000 will pay approximately $9,472 in school taxes next year, or $180 more than the current year.
Over in Brookhaven Town, district taxpayers can also expect the tax rate to increase by about 1.9 percent, or $4.75 per $100 of assessed valuation, from $244.51 to $249.26. As a result, a resident with a home assessed at $4,000 can expect to pay about $9,970 in school property taxes in 2014-15, or $190 more than the current year.
The teacher salary line of the spending plan will increase by about $1.6 million, or nearly 5 percent, from $32.3 million to $33.9 million in 2014-15, according to school officials. Their employee benefits line, meanwhile, is expected to climb by about 7.3 percent, or approximately $1.3 million, from $17.8 million this year to $19.1 million next year.
Eliminating the nine teaching positions saved approximately $390,000, according to district officials.
Additionally, the board is trimming $100,000 from new technology purchases. Assistant Superintendent for Business Richard Snyder said the district invested a significant amount of money in technology over the past few years and decided to freeze that line in next year’s budget “so we can catch up and use what we have to its fullest potential.”
The district, Mr. Snyder noted, is also cutting back on curriculum and special education consultants. Additionally, starting in September, students in need of extra help can receive that assistance after the school day. Mr. Snyder said this switch will not force students to miss class time and also save the district money on extra teaching assistants.
Taxpayers will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 20, at the Eastport South Manor Junior-Senior High School, off Moriches-Middle Island Road in Manorville. Polls are open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.