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Fair,75°
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Bellmore-Merrick Central District must cut $2.2M from 2013-14 budget
(Page 2 of 3)
Scott Brinton/Herald
Central High School District Board of Education Trustee George Haile said he worries that continued budget cuts because of a state-mandated property-tax levy cap will eventually mean reductions to “the things we’re so proud of” in Bellmore-Merrick, meaning programs.

“We have been cutting as closely as we can without impacting program,” said Trustee Janet Goller. In the future, she said, programs might be eliminated if the district does not exceed the cap, which is on the property-tax levy –– the total amount in taxes that a district must collect to meet its expenses. The state has capped the levy increase at 2 percent, though most districts exceed that by about 1 percentage point, because they are allowed to exempt a certain amount for contributions to the Teachers Retirement System, the Employees Retirement System and capital costs. When exemptions are factored in, Bellmore-Merrick’s total allowable tax-levy increase for 2013-14 is just over 3 percent.

If it exceeds the allowable cap, a district’s budget must be approved by at least 60 percent of voters. If it fails, it can be put up for a vote once more as is, or with reductions. If it fails a second time, spending is capped at the current year’s budget –– meaning spending can not increase at all. That, said Trustee George Haile, would be “a disaster.”

Over the past two years, many school district officials have been reluctant to offer a budget that exceeded the cap for a public vote, fearing that residents would shoot it down and deeper cuts would follow. But, Haile said, further cuts in the future would mean the elimination of “the things we’re so proud of” in Bellmore-Merrick.

Regal said that it is tough to make cuts. “It hurts…,” she said. “We suffer. We suffer.”

Community’s viewpoint

Caitlyn O’Hara, a Calhoun High School student-athlete, made an emotional appeal to the Board of Education to preserve the Athletes Helping Athletes program, for which high school athletes make presentations in the elementary schools about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. “It’s amazing to see how much they enjoy this program,” O’Hara said.

The Board of Cooperative Educational Services runs the program. District officials said they are looking at the possibility of instituting a local, less costly Athletes Helping Athletes program in place of the current one.

“We are looking at something so that it will continue in some form…,” said Goller. “We, too, recognize the importance of this program.”

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