The Lindenhurst Board of Education Wednesday night approved the school district's $140.2 million proposed budget, which includes a 6.89 percent tax increase and represents a 2.23 percent year-over-year increase.
The board did so while preserving programming included in . The notable exceptions are cuts to the sixth grade study skills (home economics) and JV2 (9th grade) athletics.
Cuts to phases two through five, while not part of the proposed budget that will go before voters on May 17, could still considered by the board if the budget does not pass.
Phases two to five included more than 10 programs, such as full-day kindergarten, ALC, Orion, JROTC and sixth grade world languages, at risk of being cut, and as many as 49 teaching positions at risk of being excessed in June.
“We’re not living under an illusion that a 6.89 tax levy would pass, but we’re hopeful that this community, which has been so generous in the past in supporting our schools, will put a 6.89 ahead,” BOE President Ed Murphy, Jr. told Lindenhurst Patch.
Superintendent Richard Nathan told Patch, “I describe this as a conundrum, or puzzlement. If you cut, you hurt the kids. But it’s not about the teachers. It’s about the programs. And the most important thing is the kids.”
Still, it’s a tax levy the community has been telling the board since March, when the school budget process started, would not fly.
“No one’s fooling themselves that a 6.89 percent tax levy would pass,” said resident Maria Kalish, who’s also involved in the PTA.
And while many segments of the community have been fighting for specific programs at every meeting, just as many community leaders and residents like Kalish have been tempering that with the reality that Lindenhurst may not be able to afford the newly adopted budget.
“It’s always the parents who have the burden to keep these programs or not, so it’s a catch 22 we’re in. It’s education we need to think about. No one wants to see teachers or programs go, but everyone’s got to do what they can do,” said PTA President Regina Cuffaro. “It’s not up to us. It’s up to someone else now, and I hope they think long and hard about it.”
She, like many others, as well as the board, referenced the pink elephant in the room – the BOE’s with the teachers’ union, TAL.
The BOE had in could be reached. It was clear none was.
“One bargaining unit in particular could help bring the tax rate down and keep programs in place. We have not come to terms with the relief that needs to take place,” said Murphy.
He later told Patch, “I’m really very frustrated with the whole process. We’ve exchanged proposals, but it does not appear to the board that they get it. What’s needed is a true zero, with no step or lane increments.”
So the board pushed forward Wednesday night. But instead of cutting phases two through five, which would’ve also brought the tax levy down to about four percent, it erred on the side of the students.
“Last year we went the other way. We cut and got the tax rate to three to four percent. Those programs are gone. This year is different,” said Murphy.
“We’re trying to save the home of great schools. That’s what the consideration was,” added Nathan.
The board opted to preserve all of the aforementioned programs in phases two through five except for sixth grade study skills, which saved $75,000, and the JV2 athletics program, which saved $64,215.
It was also able to preserve 14.8 teaching positions.
- $29,328 as a result of removing of BOCES administrative charges.
- $4,248 for carting and removal services as a result of the E.W. Bower elementary school closing.
- $136,500 as a result of transportation consolidation.
- $16,120 as a result of route adjustment.
- $19,000 that would’ve bought a new scoreboard for the Lindenhurst Middle School.
- $14,250 as a result of combining the JV golf and bowling teams.
- $5,179 as a result of eliminating one varsity swimming assistant.
- $4,593 as a result of eliminating the LMS second assistant co-ed coach.
- $5,786 as a result of eliminating one varsity spring boys track assistant.
- $101,391 as a result of eliminating one elementary school (kindergarten) teacher at Daniel Street as a result of declining enrollment.
Some of the marching band’s trips, competitions and costumes were also cut, noted Nathan, totaling $77,000.
The BOE also removed a total of $95,000 in unemployment reserves. And it removed $450,000 from the appropriated fund balance (reserves). The money was used to help restore the 10th grade ALC and several teaching positions. However, that money is a one-time fix.
“Those are one-time revenues,” said Murphy. “We hope we were fiscally responsible enough so that there is some left when the economy recovers.”
Lindenhurst Council of PTAs 2nd Vice President Julie Bartolomeo later asked Murphy what the board has in mind if the budget fails.
“If the budget is voted down, then what would need to be done?” she questioned. “Would you go back out with a second vote, or go straight to contingency?”
“Then all of phases two through five would have to go [and] another 30 positions would be back on the table,” said Murphy, adding, “But we could go straight to contingency.”
That contingency would give the community a 6.61 percent tax levy as opposed to the 6.89 percent it approved.
However, the board is still hoping that a feasible contract agreement with TAL materializes, or that the community will pass the budget May 17.
“There’s still a glimmer of hope we’ll get concessions. But is anyone waiting on the edge of their seats for them? No,” said Murphy. “We’d be cutting so much further, so we decided to give the community the opportunity to say yes or no.”