While the first draft of the North Bellmore School District’s 2013-14 budget maintains all academic programs, administrators explained that they would have to “eat into” reserve funds to do so in the face of soaring employee benefit costs.
The North Bellmore district takes in students from North Bellmore and part of North Merrick.
In his first presentation of the draft at Saw Mill Road Elementary School on March 5, Assistant Superintendent for Business Mark Schissler explained that officials have crafted a $50.5 million spending plan for the 2013-14 school year. He said that although much of the 4.9 percent increase in spending can be attributed to state-mandated growth of teacher and employee benefit systems, the district has the ability to reduce spending in areas that do not impact instruction, and to dip into various reserve funds to maintain programs and comply with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s property-tax cap.
Schissler explained that the largest increase in the budget would be in the teachers’ retirement system, with the district being required to contribute more than $800,000 to the fund by the state.
“That figure has been pretty stable over the years, and now we are seeing a tremendous jump,” he said. “The employee benefits … have really been the killer for the budget for us and every other district in the state of New York.”
Although Schissler estimated that the district would generate about $1.3 million in new revenue in 2013-14, he said that increases in spending on benefits and special-education programs created a budgetary shortfall. To fill the spending gaps without drastically increasing the property-tax levy, officials said they could use millions of dollars in reserve funds.
The 2013-14 spending plan has a proposed increase in the tax levy — the total amount the district needs to raise through property taxes to meet expenses — of 2.5 percent. While this exceeds the state-mandated 2 percent cap, Schissler explained the district would not need a 60 percent supermajority vote to pass the budget because of exceptions in the law.