Crafting a school budget that respects both students and taxpayers is a high-wire act these days. With demand growing for new, cutting-edge technologies in the classroom, pressure to increase spending is mounting, seemingly by the year. At the same time, many homeowners say they’ve had enough of high property taxes. They need a break.
The Elmont, Franklin Square and Sewanhaka school districts appear to have the formula for balancing students’ and residents’ needs down to a science — certainly by comparison with other Nassau County districts. Per-pupil spending in all three districts is among the lowest in the county, yet students are thriving.
That is why we are pleased to endorse all three budgets.
Note: The Elmont and Franklin Square elementary school districts are two of four feeder systems for the Sewanhaka Central High School District. The other two feeder elementary districts are Floral Park-Bellerose and New Hyde Park-Garden City, which are outside the Herald’s coverage area. The Sewanhaka district has five high schools.
Sewanhaka School District
The proposed 2017-18 Sewanhaka Central High School District budget increases spending by roughly $8.9 million, or 4.85 percent, over the current year. Total expenditures are expected to rise from about $184.1 million to $193 million.
The spending plan includes an additional $1.1 million in instructional spending, with $672,866 for regular instruction, $376,399 for special-education instruction and $94,742 for curriculum development.
The state has set the tax-cap levy at 2 percent. The Sewanhaka District is, however, allowed to exceed that cap in its proposal because a part of its budget will be directed to paying down long-term capital debt. The tentative spending plan includes the first full payment on an $86.6 million facilities bond that voters approved in May 2014.
“Debt service on bond payments will have an impact on the proposed budget, thus resulting in a tax levy cap that is higher than prior years,” a district news release reads.
Without the bond payments, the budget would rise by only 1.25 percent. That is remarkable, given all of the budget pressures that school officials must account for in their calculations.
Elmont School District
The Elmont School District budget is set to rise by a mere 0.67 percent. With such a small increase, we can only say bravo to school officials. On top of that, because the district received a better-than-expected state aid package, Elmont is proposing a no-increase tax levy for 2017-18. That is incredible.
If passed by voters, the proposed 2017-18 budget would rise from roughly $85.8 million to $86.4 million, an increase of a little more than $571,000.
“The proposed budget supports the district’s goal of ensuring that every child is challenged academically and prepared to participate in a global environment,” a district release states. “It also offers our students a rigorous and engaging curriculum, ensures a healthy and safe school climate, fosters professional collaboration and partnerships, and provides ongoing professional growth and development.”
Franklin Square School District
The Franklin Square Elementary School District has proposed a $37.8 million budget for 2017-18, an increase of $556,667, or 1.49 percent, in spending.
District officials say the spending plan maintains low class sizes, the pre-kindergarten program, the iPad initiative, the STEM program — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — and facilities maintenance.
“As always, a dedication to maintaining excellent programs and keeping Franklin Square’s school taxes among the lowest in Nassau County has been the guiding force in the development of the 2017-18 budget,” a district release reads.
In addition, Franklin Square officials will ask residents to vote on the estimated expenditure of the proposed Capital Reserve Phase Two. The reserve — and a list of projects — were approved by the community last May. Education law now requires the district to seek voter approval each time it needs to spend down that reserve. Phase Two would provide air-conditioning in the schools’ large, multi-use rooms.
Where and when to vote
Voting in the Elmont School District will take place Tuesday, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. District residents will receive notices indicating their polling places.
Voting in the Franklin Square School District will take place from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. District residents will receive notices indicating their polling places.
Sewanhaka School District
Residents can cast their ballots in the Sewanhaka Central High School District budget election in the same place where they vote for their elementary district budgets.