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Proposals of budgetary cuts mark BOE’s committee-of-the-whole on 2022-2023 budget

Schools by: Harrison LeBow, April 9, 2022

Superintendent Robert Banzer (right, standing) at an April 7 committee-of-the-whole NENUFSD BOE meeting, which resulted in a newly adopted 2022-2023 budget of $177,856,084.

(Updated Sunday, April 10, 12:00pm)

The Northport-East Northport UFSD Board of Education’s discussion of the 2022-2023 budget occurred as a committee-of-the-whole, where trustees could express their opinions and ask their questions in an open exchange.

The April 7 meeting opened with the proposed budget sitting at a grand total of $177,931,084. This represented a budget-to-budget increase of 1.85% and had the tax levy at .66%, a roughly $53 increase to the average taxpayer. This, however, eventually changed, when the board decided to reduce the budget to $177,856,084 in an attempt to drive the tax levy as close to 0.0% as it could. The newly adopted budget represents a budget-to-budget increase of 1.81%.

As mentioned, much of the Board of Education meeting revolved around a proposed reduction in funds. Spurred by the pleas of many trustees, the Board expressed their concerns regarding the budget's proposed tax levy increase of .66%. The quote that seemed to mark the night was by Trustee Carol Taylor, unwavering in her persistence, when she stated that the district needs to “hit the pause button on all extra spending.”

BOE President Larry Licopoli expressed similar concerns regarding the tax levy increase, noting that “there is a day when we will have to reduce expenses.” Dr. Licopoli then posed a question to his fellow trustees in the form of a fictional scenario, where if “Armageddon,” as he called it, were to descend, what would the board cut from the budget?

It’s possible, Dr. Licopoli noted, for the tax levy to be whittled down to an even lower number than .66%. He explained that, when the New York State Legislature soon passes their annual budget and the district’s final state aid numbers are tallied, it could shave approximately .2% off the levy. A .4% reduction could then occur if certain budgetary cuts were made, he said.

Many budgetary cuts were proposed and vigorously discussed, the most notable being the possible reduction of four assistant principals (AP) in Northport High School to three following the resignation of Dr. Carlos Falcón. Three trustees – Donna McNaughton, Thomas Loughran, and Dr. Licopoli – spoke out against this staff reduction, while trustees David Badanes and Carol Taylor came out for it. Those trustees who were wary of the reduction noted that assistant principals are often the “first line of defense” for a high schooler’s mental health and academic record. It was argued by the other trustees, however, that classroom teachers are actually the first line of defense, and a fourth AP position simply eats up necessary funds through salaries and benefits. The discussion did not translate into policy, as no vote took place.

Other notable proposed reductions were the limiting of an increase in clerical staff positions, IT/RT positions in the lower-level schools, contingency positions (those positions which exist should more students join the district mid-year), and the purchase of “adult furniture” throughout the schools. The Board, after discussion, also proposed it would move the cost of Panorama, a survey instrument used by the district the past few years “to gauge a sense of belonging and connectedness for students, parents and staff” into its grant funds, confirmed district officials. It was also confirmed that services through CORE Collaborative, the same group recently contracted through the district as part of its goal surrounding equity and belonging for all, could possibly be used in place of Panorama, as discussed by the trustees during the meeting.

The board, after its conclusion of the committee-of-the-whole, passed the resolution of the budget at a grand total $177,856,084, which signified a decrease of $75,000 from when the meeting opened. The adoption of the budget comes just prior to what will be a busy budget and election season. The deadline for submission of completed candidate packets for election to the Board of Education is Monday, April 18, 2022. The annual budget vote and election of trustees is on May 17, 2022.

Updated to include that on Saturday, April 9 a state budget granting Long Island public schools more than $457 million in extra state financial aid was approved. The NENUFSD will get for the 2022-23 fiscal year $19,818,671 in state aid, which is $2,748,950 more than last year, or a 16.10% increase.