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Long Beach School Board adopts budget with no tax hike

Adopted budget lower than current spending plan

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The Long Beach Board of Education on Tuesday adopted a $144 million budget, about half a million lower than the current spending plan - with no tax increase.

Michael DeVito, the district’s assistant superintendent of finance and operations, explained at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting that the plan was lower because the district used one-time re-purposed existing capital funds for new capital projects, including the new auditorium roof for the middle school and an auditorium ramp for Lindell Elementary School. The funds, he said, were from projects that came in under budget or other projects that did not come to fruition in the current plan.

Board Trustee Maureen Vrona made an amendment to the proposed budget – which originally called for a 0.46 tax levy – and changed it to a zero percent increase, which all her colleagues supported.

“I think Covid this year has caused a lot of stress this year,” Board Trustee Anne Conway said. “I believe that since we are able to do it financially and it makes sense for us that we should go forward with a tax levy of zero.”

DeVito said the district would need to take money from their fund balance to maintain a balanced budget. He added that it may not mean that the taxpayer will see no tax increase because the county assessment and adjusted base proportion could vary and therefore cause an increase.

The district is also expecting an increase in state aid of more than $1.3 million, according to DeVito’s revenue projections. In the other revenue category, Devito presented a conservative number of just above $9 million, which is a $400,000 decrease from last year.

He added, however, that the school has also received an extra $600,000 in foundation aid. “That’s real money that is based on a special formula that has to do with our wealth ratio, and other factors about the school district,” DeVito said.

The district will also see an increase in building aid from the state, which has to do with capital projects the district is completing, including the energy performance contract. The $15 million project included renovations such as comprehensive interior/exterior LED Lighting upgrades, computer load management software, roof upgrades and roof-mounted Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) capacity, among many others.

“One reason it has zero impact on the taxpayer is because we get money back from the state,” DeVito said. “ You see the difference of about half a million-dollar, which is really helpful for us.”

The district is also eliminating the pandemic adjustment line that reduced the district’s state aid in the amount of about $458,871 in the current year. The district’s federal CARES Act allocation is $458,871 and fully offsets the loss of state aid, Devito said.

In elementary schools, the district will add funding for academic intervention services. DeVito said that all four elementary principals requested the item.

The district also eliminated its NIKE program, which was an alternative program that aimed at providing at-risk youth the opportunity to earn a high school diploma while developing employability skills. However, the district is adding a new medical assisting program, which will take over the space NIKE occupied. Other new electives like public speaking and journalism will be added to the high school.

Board Trustee Sam Pinto, who at the moment is running unopposed for re-election, said he thought the district was going in the right direction. Board Trustee Tina Posterli, will no seek re-election, but instead a seat on the City Council in the June primary.

The May budget vote will also include a proposition to spend about $4.9 million from the district capital reserve fund to make improvements to district properties. Some of the “priority 1” projects include tennis court resurfacing at the middle school, drainage work at the high school and exterior wall for the bus garage. To view the line-by-line budget, visit the district’s website at lbeach.org.