Mineola ed board green-lights subsidy purchasing program, reviews budget proposal

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(Photo courtesy of the Mineola Union Free School District)

The Mineola Board of Education gave a green light to a federal subsidized purchasing program to be included in the district’s proposed $99 million budget for the next school year.

At a meeting last Thursday, Assistant Superintendent Matthew Gaven proposed to the board that it use E-Rate, a federally subsidized purchasing program to allow the district to buy equipment for technological improvements.

Though no official action was taken in public session, District Superintendent Michael Nagler said that the proposal would be added to the budget.

The program will now be incorporated into the district’s proposed operating budget for next year, totaling $99,995,750, up 1.79 percent from last year’s $98,195,200 budget, but still below the property tax levy cap of 2.12 percent.

The district has stayed below the cap for several years leading up to this budget season, according to Nagler.

E-Rate will allow the district to improve aspects of technology dealing with broadband connectivity in two categories, school and library connections and district connections, according to Gaven. The district, as part of the program, will be eligible to receive as much as 50 percent in reimbursements from the district connectivity purchases up to $900,000, he added.

The district administration is currently reviewing bids for purchasing equipment, including improvements to wireless access points, switches and fiber connections upgrades at the high and middle schools, Gaven said. Following the board’s collective nod of approval at the meeting, the district will accept a bid and schedule the wiring work and potentially be reimbursed by spring 2019.

Many of the district’s wireless access points will reach the end of their service within the next three years, according to Gaven.

In approving the proposal, Trustee Patrick Talty said adopting the program now would benefit the district later, especially if the improvements are necessary and can be subsidized.

The board also reviewed the preliminary 2019-2020 budget, which proposes a $1.7 million increase to the current expenditures. $1.3 million, or more than three quarters, of that raise comes directly from salary and benefits increases. Salaries and benefits for the 2019-2020 school year would amount to around 77 percent of total expenditures.

As older district staff begin to retire, though there may appear to be a savings in salary costs, Nagler said younger staff hired at lower rates will still be subject to step increases every year. And as more young staff come into the district, the gradual step increase become larger and add to the bottom line for salaries.

Before budget discussions began, the board was also treated to a visit from elementary students from the Hampton Street, Meadow Drive and Jackson Avenue schools.

As part of the district’s elementary writing initiative, students are celebrated as authors following completion of each of their writing units. Eight students from kindergarten through fourth grade read opinion pieces and stories to the board.

Each student was selected by teacher Jodi DeSantis-Helming for the effort they had put into their writing, she said.

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