The Oceanside school district has announced the final details of its nearly $144.4 million budget, which is 1.52 percent larger than the current spending plan. The tax levy has been set at $118.8 million — a $1.8 million, or 1.56 percent, increase over the current levy, which matches the district’s allowable tax levy cap.
Chris Van Cott, the assistant superintendent for business, said at a March 24 Board of Education meeting that the school district is expecting almost $18 million in aid from the state. He added that a district consultant determined that the school district was due a 3.5 percent increase in state aid. The exact numbers are uncertain. “In my experience, state aid is always a political issue more than it is how much money the schools really need,” said Van Cott. “And this year is no different.”
Superintendent Phyllis Harrington said that the district would look into restoring items eliminated from the budget — such as four assistant coaches — if it received more money than anticipated from Albany. “But … we would look to have that as fund balance, because we do ultimately need to replenish our reserves,” said Harrington. “Because we are far under the acceptable limit, which is why we were on [the state comptroller’s office’s] susceptible-to-fiscal-stress list. … So we have a financial obligation to the community to slowly build that up. And in the long run, it helps us in future budgets.”
About 6 percent of the school district’s funds are expected to come from other sources, such as unused fund balances, refunds, interest income and the Department of Community Activities.
“We really need to get the message out that if something isn’t done on this tax levy limit, we will not be able to sustain the wonderful work that we have going on,” said Harrington. “The only reason we were able to create this budget with minimal — and I mean truly minimal — reductions … was solely because of the teachers’ retirement incentive.” The district offered two retirement incentives to 20 teachers this year which will drive retirement and sick leave payments up by $657,155 in 2015-16, but will save $2 million in salaries.
At the end of the meeting, Richard Roschelle, president of the Oceanside Federation of Teachers, said that the district had done “an outstanding job” on the budget. “Of course, there are things that we don’t love, and that the community doesn’t love,” said Roschelle. “But I think that in this very bad climate that Governor Cuomo has created — in the climate of the tax cap — Oceanside has remained fiscally responsible. Oceanside has remained a very viable district, educationally sound, and that is really wonderful.”
The full budget can be found at bit.ly/1EHv20O. The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for April 21, at 7:30 p.m., at School No. 8. A budget hearing will be held on May 12 at School No. 9E. The budget vote is on May 19.