Note: Since this story went to press, the district has made changes to the budget proposal to increase some line items in the security category. In the print edition of this story, the infographic listed the current year's "Total Budget" instead of the proposed budget for next year. We have updated the online version accordingly. We have also added a line that describes the teachers' approximate split from the "instructional" segment of the budget.
As the Glen Cove School Board gears up for its vote on the 2018/2019 budget vote, administrators have been going line-by-line, evaluating their priorities for the district, and working to keep expenses in line with revenues.
The according to presentations by the district’s assistant superintendent for business, Victoria Galante, the gap between income and appropriations in the proposed budget has been reduced from about $2 million in mid-January to about $600,000. In the coming weeks, she hopes to eliminate that gap entirely.
New appropriations for security — a topic of much concern for parents and educators since the school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida have been added to the budget, although that version of the budget has not yet been announced. The prior itteration contained an almost $19,000 cut to security personnel, an extra $300 for uniforms, and no change to the security contract, staff development, general supply or maintenance lines.
Galante said that the additional security measures that the school is looking at are construction projects, and not appropriate for a yearly budget. She added that the district has begun the process of floating a bond to pay for security improvements to the district’s buildings.
“We’re forming a bond committee as we speak.” Galante said. “When they start doing walkthroughs [of the school buildings], that’s when we’ll start [bringing our findings and proposals to the public].” The committee will be comprised of a teacher and a parent or PTA member from each building, the district’s architect, three school board members, and the facilities director, who will begin doing walkthroughs as early as the end of March.
As an example of the type of renovations being considered, Galante mentioned that the district had looked at revamping the classroom doors to allow a teacher to lock them remotely at the push of a button. District-wide that renovation would have cost about $1.5 million.
The district is holding an informational meeting on school safety and security on Friday, March 9, at 5:30 p.m. in the Middle School library.
One line item that did see an increase is called, in the draft budget, “Other Legal Expenses,” which is reserved for settling legal matters, like grievances or contract negotiations, Galante said, adding that the contract negotiations with the teachers union were currently underway.
Pay for the district’s 287 teachers comes out of a nearly $21.6 million line item, accounting for almost a quarter of the budget. That total is about 1.3 percent higher than in the budget for the current school year, but almost 4.7 percent higher than the 2016/2017 budget.
According to Karen Ferguson, the union president of the Glen Cove Teachers’ Association, at the most recent negotiation session, the teachers had asked for an 8 percent raise over four years, and the district countered with a two year contract and a raise that Ferguson called, “insulting.”
“The budget process is a negotiation tool,” Galante said. “We have in the budget an increase for [the teachers], what we anticipate is the most we can give them.” She added, “The district cannot afford to give them what they want.”
The district will be taking on another psychologist, in the wake of a social worker’s departure, for a net savings of almost $30,000.
Among the other big-ticket items in next year’s budget is a new director of Information Technology. The district has managed for a year without one, and Galante said it’s been “difficult.” She said that the new director would take a more active role in the district’s burgeoning “instructional technology” program. “We’re looking for someone who can go building to building,” she said, “someone who can be more visible, more involved in the day to day tech projects in our schools.”
The district’s proposal also includes an approximately $78,000 increase to the “Library” line item, which Galante said could be attributed mostly to the district’s desire to take on a new teacher for the Science Technology Research Engineering Arts and Mathematics program — STREAM for short.