It’s that time of year again, when the East Meadow School District prepares for the upcoming school year’s finances. The budget, which was adopted on March 23 by the Board of Education, totals roughly $228 million, a 4.8 percent increase over the current spending plan.
Along with the budget, voters will be asked to approve a proposition on May 17, for construction to create additional classroom space at McVey Elementary School.
There were five different presentations at Board of Education meetings starting in January, each focusing on a different aspect of the 2022-23 budget.
The extension of McVey would consist of three new classrooms. The funding wouldn’t be coming from the budget, however, said Patrick Pizzo, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and finance. Instead, it would come from the capital reserve fund, which was created in May 2018 and holds money the district hasn’t used. The voters would need to approve just under $5.5 million of it for the new classrooms.
“This is money that’s already sitting there, waiting for a purpose that would come our way, and we suspected all along that the purpose would be something in regards to space,” Pizzo said. “If you vote for proposition two, it will not have any impact on anybody’s taxes because this is money we already have and we’re just looking for authorization to use it.”
Pizzo said that when school officials set up the reserve they set up different components as to how it would be funded and how it would be accessed, which is set up pretty strictly. “We’re fortunate that we have this money,” he said. “It was part of our long range planning.”
The tax levy for the upcoming year increased 1.4 percent, which does not pierce the tax cap. Pizzo said that for the foreseeable future the budget would not pierce the tax cap, which is capped at 2 percent. “There’s a lot of things built into the system that goes against a district piercing the tax cap,” he said. “It does negatively impact people’s exemptions and there’s an additional benefit that the taxpayers get when we stay within the tax limits.
“We always want to live within our means and understand that while we want to do what’s best for our kids, we’re not dealing with an infinite budget,” he added.
Board of Education President Alisa Baroukh was thankful to central administration at the March 23 meeting for “their creativity in ensuring that our students continue to receive the superior education while being mindful of the tax cap.”
There are three components of the budget: administrative expenses, which covers aspects such as districtwide functions and public information; capital expenses which consists of anything that improves the buildings, and program costs, which covers every aspect that has to do with students. Out of the three, program is getting the most money. “You can see where the money is going” he said. “It’s going to the kids.”
One of the major additions to the school year next year and what the parents would care most about, Pizzo said, is the addition of the integrated co-teaching program into the elementary schools. For the past four years the program has been used on the secondary level. It’s to be put into effect in the district’s five elementary schools. An ICT classroom consists of a general education teacher and a special education teacher providing instruction together to students who have learning disabilities and those who don’t.
The funding for the program expansion–which will add 24 new teachers–will come from grant funds from the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus rescue package; the budget itself, and additional funds from state aid. The plan is to use two thirds of the grant money and extra state aid and one third of the general budget to fund the program the first year, two thirds general budget and one third grant and state aid the second year, and in the third year the money will come straight from the general budget.
The state aid in the budget increased to an estimated roughly $4.3 million to get the district to almost $55 million in state aid.
“We are a district that believes in educational excellence,” Superintendent Kenneth Card said at the March 23 BOE meeting.“This is a community that has always supported our budgets overtime,” he added. “Because we follow through on our promise to ensure that all of our students are getting the best possible education that they can.”