At the April 13 NENUFSD Board of Education meeting, board members voted to use $400,000 in reserve funds to reduce the proposed tax levy increase for the 2023-2024 budget from 2.26% to 1.99%, an idea that was initiated by BOE Trustee David Badanes and agreed upon by the board after discussion. While using reserves to reduce the tax levy isn’t generally recommended, Assistant Superintendent for Business Robert Howard said, these funds can be used to offset inflationary pressures on the district.
The special board of education meeting was held to discuss and finalize the proposed budget, and invited input from the public.
The final proposed budget for the Northport-East Northport school district is $183,038,428, a 2.91% budget-to-budget increase from 2022-2023. If approved, the proposed budget will cause an estimated tax increase of $160 per year for properties with a $500K market value.
The budget increase, Howard said, is due to expenditures including a 19% increase in health insurance premiums for district employees that began January 2023, estimated contractual increases by transportation (6%) and BOCES services, and the rising costs of some district expenses, including building insurance, and the cost of materials and supplies.
There is also a $1 million increase in capital funds, Howard said; these funds will be used to complete necessary roof replacements and building improvements, as well as provide new playground equipment at each elementary school.
Superintendent Robert Banzer and Howard presented some sources of revenue and district savings as well, including increases in New York State aid (by approximately 6%), the fourth installment from the LIPA glidepath payment, a $200,000 increase in interest income, and savings in salary costs due to employee retirements. In total, there is a net reduction of 7.5 “full time equivalent” staff due to retirements, and a number of other retirements are being replaced with staff at a lower salary cost. This equates to a reduction of approximately $1,417,089 in salary costs due to retirements.
Additionally, a commercial realty group, Newmark, has been secured for the potential sale or lease of three district buildings: Dickinson Avenue Elementary, Bellerose Avenue Elementary, and the Brosnan building; revenue from these buildings, however, will be a “multi-year process,” Superintendent Banzer said. District officials are expected to present updated information on progress related to these buildings in late May or early June.
In a meeting recap emailed to district parents, Banzer wrote, “The proposed budget maintains small class sizes, continues our wide range of academic and extracurricular student offerings, and includes funds for ongoing mental health support for students.” The proposed budget also includes funds for an elementary health teacher who will work across all four elementary schools to implement a health curriculum, which will be developed over the summer.
In addition to the proposed tax levy increase from the district budget, residents will also be responsible for the annual tax increase due to the LIPA settlement, a figure that will be presented by the Town of Huntington and is expected to be around $380 for homes valued at $500K, according to the glidepath graph released in 2020.
In this year’s trustee race, Northport resident and district parent Amanda Cascio submitted her intentions to run for a seat on the board, confirmed District Clerk Beth Nystrom earlier this evening. Cascio would be be running for one of two available seats, against current board of education trustees Donna McNaughton and David Badanes, whose terms expire this year. Both McNaughton and Badanes confirmed with the Journal their intentions to run for reelection earlier last month, and had submitted candidate packets by today’s deadline.
Cascio most recently made public comments at the March 30 board of education meeting, at which several district parents, including Cascio’s husband Christopher, advocated for security upgrades and the addition of armed guards throughout the district. At the meeting, Amanda Cascio asked if there were any plans to expand active shooter training in the district, and if money was set aside for armed security. “It seems to me that it is unfortunately becoming a more and more necessary undertaking,” she said.
She also suggested that the district’s social-emotional learning curriculum be evaluated for its effectiveness and updated. “Perhaps it’s time for us to look at it from an outside-the-box perspective, and say ‘How can we better strengthen and reinforce our children to handle the criticism and bullying of others?’”
Cascio could not be immediately reached for comment.
The next BOE meeting will be held on Thursday, May 4, at which time there will be a hearing on the finalized budget. The budget vote and election of trustees is scheduled for Tuesday, May 16. More information can be found on the district website here.