The Long Beach Board of Education voted 4 to 1 on April 12, with Dr. Dennis Ryan as the dissenting vote, to adopt a $140 million budget that is about $4.6 million larger than the current spending plan and includes a $2.9 million tax-levy increase.
When the board proposed the budget at its March 22 meeting, the tax levy was expected to increase about $3.4 million over the current year. But Chief Operating Officer Michael DeVito presented trustees with three different versions of the spending plan that could be adopted, and the board chose the one that reduced the tax levy the most.
The district is set to receive about $23 million in state education aid next year, a $523,000 increase over last year, after state lawmakers secured additional funding.
A budget hearing is set for May 3, and the public will vote on the spending plan and five candidates running for school board on May 15.
DeVito said the district needs $1.3 million to pay for projected health insurance increases for the 2018-19 school year, which have been on the rise over the past eight years, he explained, and have skyrocketed over the past three years.
The budget would increase by about $3.4 million overall because of step increases for contractual salaries, benefits and the payroll FICA tax, he said.
Staff salaries in the budget are set to increase by about $140,000 over the current year to total about $4.7 million. Additionally, teaching staff salaries are projected to be about $36.8 million, increasing by about $510,000 over the current year, DeVito said at the meeting. The district reached contract settlements last year with the Long Beach School Employees Association and the Classroom Teachers Association.
The total facilities budget — about $8.3 million — is to decrease by about $176,000. The drop was attributed to a decrease in the natural gas budget, DeVito said. Additionally, next year’s budget includes a new full-time psychologist at the NIKE work-based learning center and an additional psychologist at the middle school. DeVito said school officials responded to “needs expressed by middle school staff” for more psychological services, which will total about $1.2 million overall, with an increase of about $172,000.
“I have an issue with the appointment of a new psychologist at NIKE. I think the REACH worker should be moved to NIKE,” Ryan said, referring to Long Beach REACH, an organization that provides mental-health services to those suffering from chemical dependency issues. “I think that expenditure should be saved.”
The transportation budget for the 2018-19 school year — about $6.2 million — is set to decrease by about $164,000 over the current year, mostly due to a savings in vendor services and supplies, DeVito explained. He said there would be no change in the district’s 56 drivers and 51 in-house routes, except “maybe a shift of work.” Transportation staff salaries are basically staying level, with a slight increase of about $20,000.