NHP-GCP proposes $33.5 M budget

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New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School district administrators presented a proposed 2011-12 school budget at Monday night’s meeting of $33.5 million, reflecting a 2.97 percent increase over the current budget and translating into a 5.89 percent rise in the tax levy.

New Hyde Park- Garden City Park Superintendent of Schools Robert Katulak said the proposed budget “miraculously” provides the district with the lowest year-to-year increase in the past seven years.

“It also delivers a staffing budget that not one employee loses a job,” said Katulak, who noted that the budget also keeps all existing school programs, including the music programs, intact..

Katulak said the administration had made more than $200,000 in cuts, including the elimination of a “contingency” teaching position of $88,000, $60,368 in new textbooks, $41,000 in reduced hours for lunch monitors and $14,000 from an outdoor educational experience for 5th and 6th graders in the district.

Michael Frank, superintendent of business for the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park district, said to keep costs down the administration is also proposing to draw $584,690 from the district’s reserve fund.

“I do not anticipate being able to replicate this again,” he said.

Frank pointed out that the costs of the Employees Retirement Service, Teachers Retirement Service and NYSHIP health insurance are collectively rising by 15.5 percent.

“These are things we don’t control and they’re driving our budget,” Frank said,.

The school district also must cope with a $623,507 year-to-year reduction in state aid, from $4.4 million to $3.8 million as a result of the current state fiscal crisis, Frank said.

Under the proposed school budget, the $33.5 million in costs would be supported by a total tax levy of $27.39 million.

If the budget is rejected by district voters, a 1.92 percent budget increase would be mandated, requiring the board of education to cut $388,565 from its proposed budget, Frank said. That means new equipment and capital projects would be cut and an additional $336,845 would have to be removed.

Frank criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2 percent tax cap, which would take effect in the 2012-13 school year, saying it could eventually “bankrupt” the school district.

“It’s going to decimate our school system as we know it,” Frank said.

If the proposed school budget passes, the average property tax bill in the district would be $2,849.18 compared to $2,808.76 under a contingency budget. That’s based on an assessed valuation of $465,000, according to Katulak.

Residents in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park district also pay for approximately 25 percent of the Sewanhaka Central High School District’s budget.

“We’re all on a track to go bankrupt, and that’s very scary,” said board member Patricia Rudd.

Before the budget presentation, Rudd said that discussions she had with state legislators in Albany indicated that the proposed tax cap may exclude pensions and health care.

But she said state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) told her that the possibility of eliminating or changing the Triborough Amendment, which assures public employees of annual “step” salary increases with or without negotiated contracts, is “off the table.”

Rudd said that her conversations in Albany indicated that the school district might receive an additional 1 percent in state aid.

Frank Cienski, a member of the Hillside Grade School PTA, echoed other residents’ comments at the meeting, calling the budget “commendable.”

But then he added, “some line items could have been cut more.”

Frank reiterated that school district would maintain all programs under the proposed budget.

“I believe the budget keeps all the programs in place as is,” he said. “If people in the community think there are programs that should be cut, we can have those discussions.”

As if to emphasize the point Katulak made about maintaining music programs during his presentation, there was a musical prelude to the meeting with performances by the Manor Oaks-HIllside Grade School and the Garden City Park-Road School bands.

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