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Levittown to Shave 4 Percent from School Budget

The budget was revealed to the community Wednesday night; the budget is a way to combat a state-imposed tax cap.

The Levittown School District revealed its budget plan for the 2012-13 school year at a planning session Wednesday night.

In the face of a 2 percent cap on the district’s ability to raise the tax levy, the budget proposes a 4 percent decrease from 2011-12 budget levels, to a sum of $189,996,581. That decrease was arrived at as a result of the district preparing a "zero-sum budget" or "rollover budget.” The district asked each department how much money they would need to operate the same way they operated in 2011-12. Once they got numbers from everyone, they arrived at the 4 percent decrease.

"We looked at what our current programs are, and what it would cost us to simply roll the budget over, to simply take everything we had this year and have it again next year," said Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Grossane. "In doing that, [we were] very realistic with the cost projections."

There were two notable reasons for the decrease in budget. The district generally budgets 4 percent each year for fund balance, which is held for the following year's budget. In the past, they would allocate excess money past 4 percent towards that fund balance. This year, due to the levy restrictions, they are unable to do that.

"If you look at the way the budget is funded, there’s a huge dependency on fund balance," said Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Mark Flower. "By us tightening that budget, we’re growing less dependent on that fund balance."

What that means is that the district will eventually have to start tapping into reserve funds stored in previous years to cover expenses. Grossane and Flower don't anticipate using reserve funds this year, but they admitted it could be a possibility next year. Those reserves can't be re-stocked in the current climate, either.

"When the district was able to ask for more than two percent, they were able to take money and put it in reserve," said Grossane. "They had their rainy day funds. The rainy day is here."

The other notable change within the budget was in salaries, which sees a proposed decrease in just over $1.5 million. The reduction does not equate to jobs lost, according to Grossane; rather, it is a way of tightening a portion of the budget that was over-funded.

“We’re being far more precise with our projection,” he said. “Last year, that code was over-funded. Our actual expenditure in that budget is less than what that number was.”

The salary number takes state-mandated STEP raises into account. “What we did was take our actual expenditures, roll them up with everyone’s STEP increase, and that’s what we needed to cover it,” Grossane said.

While the budget takes the salaries of every teacher into account, Grossane said there still could be layoffs if enrollment declines. There could also be layoffs at the high school level if certain elective classes fail to reach a minimum enrollment requirement of 17. If that happens, students scheduled for those classes will be placed in their second or third elective choice.

To see a copy of Assistant Superintendent Flower's presentation given Wednesday night, with detailed budget and tax levy numbers, click here. A follow-up article explaining the tax levy and other aspects of the budget will run on Monday.

Just Joe February 18, 2012 at 10:13 PM
So now we are going to draw down the reserve fund with no hope of replacing it?
Mark Sonnenstein February 18, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Ah yes my wise child....now you finally see the Governor's plan. All school districts will be brought down to their knees. Those districts that did some planning ahead of time will survive a year or two longer than others, but in the end, all will tumble. Look around you. Several within a short bike ride from Levittown Schools will collapse this year or next. Upstate almost 100 will become insolvent in 2012/13. HTH do you expect to fund a rainy day fund when a hurricane is going on right now in education. You can only raise taxes 2%. That means Levittown can only raise 2.5 million dollars a year. Last year the teachers raises were over 5 million dollars. Levittown like every other district will have to dig into the reserves. This year they are spending 10 million more than last year and 2 million less state aid, That means 9.5 million from the reserves to stay afloat if the tax for 2%. When the reserves are gone, in a few years, Levittown being one of the lucky ones, you will already know what the next step in the insolvency process will be, because Levittown will be one of the last filing for it according to the State Comptrollers report. Who knows, maybe the teachers will cut back on their raises and we can survive a bit longer. Maybe Island Trees will merge with us when they go belly up in 2014. It looks like the Mayan calendar for education is off by just a few years.
Merrick7 February 19, 2012 at 09:58 AM
People are so shocked that the cap levy forces layoffs, closing schools for only a few hundred students, depleting fund balances. The governors rhetoric from day one has been a detest for the set up of our educational system. He wishes to force consolidation by breaking these districts and communities down to size. Like the Syosset school district with Hankin who laughed at the governor for being annoyed with a superintendent for make over half a million in compensation. Since he attacked her pay, many more residents who are not supporters of this little fiefdom brought strong opposition and Hankin's salary is now being renegotiated as a freeze with some perks (i believe) being removed. Also you may or may not notice many superintendents are retiring after newspaper and governor attacks on their high salaries. Look on all the patches for Long island almost across the bard retirement is occuring, again with community outrage inspired by the governor. The evauations which all teachers are claiming unfairly put weight in the exams are very costly for the district, but more costly in retraining and remagining teaching for many of the well-seasoned and highly paid (based on longevity) instructors. The instructors decide instead of staying for another step increase or contractual raise to avoid the headache and will soon retire in droves over the next few years, so we can actually get a turnover rate and get much more lowly paid but creative and engaging, better trained new staff.
Concerned taxpayer February 19, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I mostly agree with you but am not entirely certain that the image of the washed up veteran teacher vs the energetic new graduate is valid other than as a stereotype. I am also suspicious of the zeal of some politicians as they often have underlying motivations. However, I do believe there must be legislative limits on all public employee compensation.
Merrick7 February 21, 2012 at 05:27 PM
agreed. I do not mean to sum up or stereotype either type of teacher in one way, but generally speaking that is how most people feel. The politicians we can tell want to weaken NY's most powerful union and drive down costs on education.

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