The New York state , NYS state aid and the progress of contract negotiations with (teachers' union) - were top-of-mind at the latest held on Wednesday night by the Lindenhurst Board of Education.
They were discussed not only because budget season is around the corner, but also because New York released its proposed aid figures for school districts for the next school year on Tuesday.
They show that would be receiving an additional $1,558,375 ($1.6 million) in operating aid for the 2012-13 school year.
That represents a 3.94 percent increase over the current year. Without adding in building and transportation aid, the district would receive a total of $44,535,069 ($44.6 million) from the state for next year.
"Some of that aid is expense-driven," he said. "For instance, we lowered transporation costs; so when you lower costs, you get less aid. So the figure [by which the district's state aid appears to be increasing] - $1,558,375 - would be need to be reduced by $228,000 because we were able to lower transportation expenses."
This pessimistic characterization of is in line with what Nathan predicted back in at his .
He said at the time, “For 2012-13 Governor Andrew Cuomo indicated that districts will receive an increase of four percent in state aid, but he recalculated the formula, and experts believe that it’ll be more like two percent - and we‘ll be lucky if we get that."
He further reminded parents and residents at that that the past two school years’ budgets saw a total loss of $6.7 million in state aid.
Tax Cap Effect
So despite what appears to be a slight increase in state aid, he expects that the upcoming budget season will be tough - especially with the in place, which will force districts like Lindenhurst to trim budgets to the bone so that it doesn't raise the tax levy by more than two percent or CPI (Consumer Price Index), whichever is less.
Now while Cuomo’s 2012-13 Executive Budget and Reform Plan featuring a total increase of $805 million in school aid - of which $56.3 million will be distributed to Long Island districts - has been released, the state aid figures won't be finalized for a few months as the governor and the legislature hammer out the details of the state budget.
So the numbers could fluctuate like last year when the district got back as part of for the 2011-12 school year - but no one is optimistic on that front.
In the meantime, further complicating things are "a few little caveats attached to the state aid this year," according to Nathan.
For one he pointed to how Cuomo wants to link the receipt of state aid to the adoption of a formal enhanced teacher evaulation process, which must be created within the year.
"He wants the teachers' union (New York State United Teachers) to drop an anti-reform lawsuit and adopt standards for APPR or a teacher evaluation plan within 30 days. Or else he'll come up with one of his own and make it part of his budget legislation. And he's giving disitricts a year from January 17 to put them in place," Nathan said.
Failure to do so could mean forfeiting aid increases this year and next, according to a press release about the governor's 2012 budget plan.
"He makes it sounds like there are some districts which have adopted a plan when none have," he continued. "We're being held hostage for the additional state aid."
It would force districts to negotiate with their teachers' unions about setting a plan. And the Lindenhurst School District has already been in contract talks with its teachers' union, TAL, over the bargaining unit's expired contract without coming to any sort of agreement.
To add this would throw another wrench into a tenuous process that has been on-going since last year.
However, regarding the , the BOE still remains hopeful.
"We hoped that talks would've already produced some relief, but we continue to be hopeful that our bargaining units could provide some relief - in particular our largest bargaining unit (TAL)," said President Ed Murphy, Jr., who returned from a brief leave of absence due to a loss in his family.
In addition to TAL, the BOE is also still negotiating with aides, clericals, administrative and nurses (the custodians’ contract is up in June 2012).
"As we look to balancing the budget this year, more tough decisions will have to be made, and we are hopeful that there will be some relief eventually," he said.
The relief to which Murphy refers would come in the form of some sort of concession(s) on the part of TAL.
Last year the BOE the 2011-12 budget adoption in hopes that a new contract deal with TAL could possibly help preserve some programs and personnel. However, one never materialized, and still hasn't yet.
Lastly, Nathan pointed out the state is placing even more mandates on districts' plates. For example, he mentioned special education pre-school.
"We have it here in the district. But whereas before the state picked up the tab, the state is looking for the cost to be shared equally between the state, county and district," he said.
Nathan said in closing that none of this is set in stone, yet, since this year's state budget is far from being finalized, but all together it doesn't paint a pretty picture for the .
2012-13 Budget Season
Nathan also announced the for , all of which will begin at 7 p.m. at the :
- February 29: Bugdet Overview, Community Input
- March 6: Buildings and Grounds, Special Education, Transportation
- March 14: Building Budgets (supplies, equipment, textbooks), Technology, Athletics
- March 19: Personnel: Instructional and Non-Instructional
- March 27: Finalization of the 2012-13 Budget
- April 4: Board of Education Business and Budget Adoption
- May 15: , 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at , , , and elementary schools.
The Workshop and Business Meeting/Budget Adoption venue might be subject to change, Nathan noted, if a larger turn-out is expected.
Nathan also encouraged people to come to the annual .
"It'll be held , Saturday, at the auditorium, starting at 8:30 a.m.," he said. "I behoove all of you to come and ask questions of your legislators."
Editor's Note: Look for more information about and coverage of the and the as the in Lindenhurst gets underway. These dates are also here on the district website, which also lists a link to a SCSSA tax cap survey. And be sure to weigh in on Patch about the tax cap: