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 Freeport School District appears 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 the district is among the lowest in the county, yet students are thriving.
For the third straight year, the Freeport School District has proposed a budget that actually lowers the tax levy — the total amount that the district must raise in taxes to meet expenses.
We say, Bravo! And we encourage Freeporters to pass the district’s spending plan when they head to the polls on May 16.
In 2017-18, the district plans to decrease the levy by 0.09 percent, officials said at an April 20 meeting at the Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School. The district has lowered its levy five of the last 10 years. In total, it has increased the levy by 1.4 percent over the past decade, according to Superintendent Kishore Kuncham.
“It’s a solid record,” Kuncham said. “The budget includes many important staffing positions to support our students and programs, including introduction of new course offerings at the high school and a significant amount of money for capital projects.”
The district’s current $170 million budget is slated to rise to roughly $175 million in 2017-18 — a 2.87 percent increase. The spending plan includes:
• A $2 million increase for capital projects.
• A $1.7 million increase for BOCES services, special education, facilities, transportation and textbooks.
New York state will provide about $73.5 million in education aid for Freeport Schools in 2017-18. That represents a nearly $4.7 million — or 6.81 percent — increase over the current year.
Board trustees expressed optimism that they would be able to build a $25 million capital fund over the next decade in order to fund building improvements. Each year during that timeframe, the board plans to transfer potential surplus money in the general fund into the capital fund, in a sum not to exceed $2.5 million annually.