By Amanda Wyatt
Following months of workshops and planning, on Monday the Sag Harbor Board of Education (BOE) voted to adopt a $35,508,622 budget for the 2013-2014 school year.
Business administrator John O’Keefe described the budget as “fiscally prudent” and one that maintains the same quality of programs, small class sizes and other desirable features of the district. Unlike some neighboring districts, which have been forced to make drastic cuts to stay within the state-mandated two percent property tax levy cap or even ask voters to “pierce the tax cap,” Sag Harbor has kept its programs and staff intact.
However, the district recognizes that it may not be as lucky in the future.
“Each year is going to be a more and more difficult struggle,” said O’Keefe.
And while Sag Harbor hasn’t been forced to make cuts yet, Chris Tice, BOE vice president, said she imagined that “every district before the end of this tax cap is going to be faced with those choices.”
Dr. Carl Bonuso, the district’s interim superintendent, cited costly, mostly unfunded, state mandates and other legislation that has taken effect recently as being problematic. Unless it receives relief from these mandates, he said, the district would “have to look at some major strategy shifts” in the future.
This year’s budget takes into consideration some of these mandates, such as the Common Core curriculum and APPRs (Annual Professional Performance Reviews), as well as the rising costs of teacher and employee retirement systems, and state health insurance. In fact, O’Keefe said, benefits alone increased $1.3 million this year.
The budget-to-budget increase this year is 3.88 percent from last year’s approved budget of $34,182,256. The calculated tax levy needed to support the budget is $32,739,375, or a tax levy percentage of 3.78 percent.
O’Keefe also pointed out that there is a $100,000 increase from the budget as it was initially proposed last month, which includes funds for increased safety measures, drug and alcohol prevention programming and other items.
The budget vote is scheduled for May 21 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.