Island Park schools propose $44.3M budget

District impacted by Nassau County’s LIPA settlement


Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots on the Island Park School District’s proposed $44.3 million budget for the 2024-25 school year.

The spending plan is 2.4 percent larger than the current $43.3 million budget, and includes an increase in the tax levy of 1.99 percent, which is below the district’s allowable cap — the limit on the property increase set by the state for the upcoming year. District officials said the proposal will mean a slight increase in taxes resulting from diminished state aid, soaring health insurance costs and necessary building maintenance.

The enacted state budget reinstates the “hold harmless” provision for foundation aid, which keeps the Island Park district from receiving a cut in that form of state aid. The schools are facing financial challenges resulting from a $1.5 million loss in revenue from the settlement involving Nassau County and the Long Island Power Authority, which has severely impacted the district’s budget planning process.

The Island Park School District lost $7 million as a result of the settlement agreement with LIPA over its tax payments for the E.F. Barrett Power Plant. This loss occurred gradually over the course of the agreement. The school district will receive $9 million in direct payments from LIPA gradually over the coming years. This money will help the district maintain its educational programs and lessen the immediate impact on taxpayers. However, because the E.F. Barrett Power Plant’s taxes are being reduced, taxpayers in Island Park may face higher property taxes to make up for the lost revenue.

The district is now facing heightened pressure to manage expenses and find alternative sources of revenue, administrators said, adding that they still plan to maintain all academic programs and services for students. To offset the impact of the revenue losses, the district will dip into its reserves and unassigned fund balance for $3.6 million.

The unassigned fund balance refers to the portion of the school’s fund balance that is not restricted for specific purposes or obligated to cover certain liabilities and can be used for various needs or emergencies as determined by the district.

Superintendent Vincent Randazzo and Board of Education President Jack Vobis explained that the decision to set aside funds to reserves was a strategic move to address future financial uncertainties, including potential budget shortfalls. Randazzo emphasized the importance of planning for the long-term and cited factors such as impending financial challenges related to the LIPA settlement and uncertainties in future revenue sources.

“We know that in three years the financial cliff will come, and we have absolutely no way of plugging that hole,” Randazzo said. “We’re using everything that we have, including the LIPA settlement, to plug that hole for our property owners. What we’re doing is planning for the next three years.”

All academic programs and services will be preserved, ensuring that students continue to receive quality education without disruptions, district administrators said. The budget includes funding for new SMART Boards, the continuation of student one-to-one computing devices, software and other technology lining up with the current standards for learning. The budget also allocates resources for mental health services and the expansion of extracurricular enrichment programs such as the hiring of a Half-Time guidance counselor at Hegarty Elementary school and a mental health services partnership with Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling Services.

The Board of Education has made some reductions in the proposed budget to manage expenses effectively while maintaining essential services.

In addition to deciding on whether to approve the proposed budget, voters will be asked to cast their ballots on two other propositions, including the establishment of a power plant tax assessment reserve fund to offset the reduction in the district’s tax base due to the LIPA settlement. The third proposition calls for a five-year contract with Long Beach Public Schools for Island Park students to continue to attend Long Beach High School for the next five years.

The Island Park Public Library is facing its own set of budgetary challenges as it strives to maintain services for the community. The school district recently clarified a report that was stated incorrectly on its website, claiming that the library had a $2.4 million reserve fund at its disposal.

“I think it was an honest error on their part,” Jessica Koenig, the library’s director, said.

The library’s proposed budget is $1.6 million which is an increase which amounts to about 9 percent and the tax levy increase comes in just under 13 percent. If the library’s proposed budget is passed, taxes will increase $50 per year, or $4 per month, for the average household, officials said. Rising retirement payments and escalating health insurance costs are among the primary factors driving the increase. In addition, necessary building maintenance, including heating, ventilation and air condition repairs, is placing a further strain on the library’s financial resources.

Voting will take place at Lincoln Orens Middle School on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.