With the new year comes a new budget season at the North Shore School District. Superintendent Chris Zublionis and Assistant Superintendent for Business Jaime Pappas unveiled the district’s preliminary budget at the Board of Education’s Feb. 2 meeting, detailing where costs may be rising for the district and potential avenues to reduce expenditure for the 2023/24 academic year.
To start off their presentation, Zublionis reminded attendees that due in large part to the LIPA deal, homeowners in the district will now be paying more in taxes. Compared to 2001, homeowners in the coming year will be providing the district roughly 29 percent more to cover the loss in revenue from LIPA.
They explained that this year’s annual revenue loss due to LIPA would be over $3 million, which is the first part of the roughly $38 million the district will lose over the coming years. This is also exacerbated by the fact that the district is losing the Senator Marcellino/Assemblyman Lavine grant, which in the past few years had provided the district with just over a million dollars to help offset the LIPA loss.
The goal of the budget, Zublionis emphasized, is to continue to provide the students with access to world-class programs and academic and extracurricular activities while not putting undue economic pressure on the district’s taxpaying community.
“We’re looking at our community but we’re also looking at our programs and our students to find the best balance,” he said. “There will be a lot of conversations, a lot of changes. We’ll take feedback, and we will rework, and that is an important part of this very open and democratic process.”
In anticipation for the new budget, Pappas and the district administration reviewed the schools’ expenditures over the previous five years, in addition to looking through the schools’ infrastructure needs. Pappas and his team also worked to anticipate how health care and other employee benefit costs would increase based on trends over the last few years.
The largest impact on the rising budget comes from rising employee benefits, which have been increasing in districts across the country and make up for roughly 60 percent of the budget increase. Other major factors include infrastructure demands, central services and transportation throughout the district.
Zublionis and Pappas claimed that, when factoring in the loss of LIPA revenue in addition to the loss of other revenue streams and rising employee benefits costs, the school district is over $10 million dollars short of meeting its budget. They continued to say that after reviewing the district’s expenditures and cost-saving methods they have managed to reduce that sum to approximately $4.5 million.
Pappas said that while the numbers could be daunting, things were not as bad as they could be. He emphasized that last year the district had managed to remain under the tax levy, which is the maximum amount the taxpayers in the district can be taxed by the schools, and this year North Shore is again set to remain under the levy, although not by as much.
“Today, as we saw in some of the slides, our maximum tax levy is over $90 million, just under $91 million,” Pappas continued. “What we’re proposing is a tax levy of just about $89 million.”
The district administration and the Board of Education still have a lot of work to do before the budget is finalized, however, despite the cost increases to the district Board members still appeared optimistic, thanking Zublionis and Pappas for their herculean efforts to find and address inefficiencies in the previous years’ budgets.
“All this information can be very confusing, but the presentation was very clear and really helpful,” Board of Education President Dave Ludmar said.