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School budget vote tomorrow; proposed 1.99% tax levy increase

Schools by: Chrissy Ruggeri, May 15, 2023

The annual budget vote and election of trustees is Tuesday, May 16, from 6am to 9pm.

The Northport-East Northport budget vote is May 16, from 6am to 9pm at Dickinson Avenue and Fifth Avenue elementary schools and the William J. Brosnan building. The proposed budget represents a budget-to-budget increase of 2.91% and a tax levy increase of 1.99%. If approved, the average household will see an estimated $160 per year tax increase.

According to Robert Howard, Assistant Superintendent for Business, the budget increase is due to expenditures including an estimated 15% increase in health insurance premiums for district employees that began in January 2023, contractual increases by transportation and BOCES services, and the rising costs of some district expenses, including building insurance and the cost of materials and supplies.

In addition to the proposed tax levy increase from the district budget, residents will be responsible for the annual tax increase due to the LIPA settlement. This figure is presented by the Town of Huntington and expected, this year, to be around $400 for homes valued at $500K. The increase in resident taxes is separate from the school district budget and will continue until 2027, as the plant's reduced valuation resulted in the lowering of LIPA's owed real estate tax payments to the Town of Huntington, in increments, for seven years on a glidepath.

“The district has approached this glidepath with an understanding of the financial burden facing our residents and has been able to keep tax levy increases at a significantly lower rate than the original anticipated increases resulting from the LIPA settlement presented in 2019, helping to mitigate the overall yearly tax increases on residents,” Superintendent Robert Banzer told the Journal today. “This is partly due to the negotiated $14.5 million payment from LIPA to the district over the seven-year period. Each year the entire payment is applied to reducing the tax levy,” he added.

Banzer also noted that the NEN budget-to-budget increases have been significantly lower than the average budget-to-budget increases throughout Suffolk County. This reflects the district’s ability to “find opportunities for savings, despite facing very similar challenges as nearby districts, including inflationary pressure and declining enrollment,” Banzer said.

“These relatively low budget-to-budget increases and tax levy increases do not happen by accident and are the result of thoughtful planning and consideration for the financial pressures facing both the district and our community. This past year, the district created a long term financial planning committee to further assess the future financial opportunities and challenges of the district,” Banzer continued.

In total, the committee identified $91 million in district projects, many of which are considered critical infrastructure projects. Several of the committee’s recommendations, including an increase in capital expenditures in the budget and securing a commercial real estate agency for the district’s closed and underutilized buildings, have been acted upon this year in order to bring the district closer to acquiring adequate funds for such projects.

In addition to voting on the school budget, there is another proposition on the May 16 ballot, which is to authorize the district to expend $2,374,944 for the purpose of performing necessary capital projects, including district-wide roof replacements, HVAC renovations and proactive district-wide asbestos abatements.

Residents will also decide on who fills two vacant Board of Education seats. The three candidates are Amanda Cascio, David Badanes and Donna McNaughton. To find out more about the candidates’ positions on district policies, read this article on last week’s forum.

To find out where you vote, click here.

Neighboring districts’ proposed tax levy increases: Commack 1.99%, Elwood 1.95%, Harborfields 2.21%, Kings Park 3.45%, Huntington 0.88%, South Huntington 1.5%, Cold Spring Harbor 2.95%, Smithtown 2.83%