With the district vote next week, the Mineola School District made one final presentation of their 2017-18 budget at its May 4 board of education meeting, extolling the virtues of their spending plan that preserves all programs and staff while remaining under the state-mandated tax cap.
The proposed budget is set at $94,444,259, a $3,229,747 (or 3.54 percent) increase over the previous year. However, Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler was quick to point out that the approximately $3 million budget-to-budget increase will not represent additional monies coming out of resident’s pockets, as the vast majority of it will be paid for from what is essentially a savings account that the public had previously voted to allow Mineola Schools to maintain.
“The majority of that increase is a transfer of capital that we have in our fund balance that we are moving over to the budget. Therefore, it’s not an increase in taxes and our tax levy increase is only .89 percent as a result,” he said. “However, this transfer of funds is a one-time expense…we can’t count on that money every year, we’re applying a savings. Our fund balance is a savings to use for something like this, or in the case of an emergency.”
Nagler broke down the district’s estimated 2017-18 revenue—including the fund balance transfer—as follows:
•Estimated Tax Levy: $79,543,950
•State Aid (as of 4/6/17): $7,440,000
•Appropriated Fund Balance: $3,000,000
•Total Estimated Revenue: $94,444,259
State aid to the school district has increased by approximately $300,000 over what Mineola received last year; in addition, there is also a slight increase in their PILOT numbers as well, although Nagler noted that they were being conservative in their estimates.
“We’re being conservative on purpose, because the last couple of years we have not gotten the amount they said we were going to get on their projections,” he said. “We thought it was safer to do it this way as opposed to over-estimating it…we’ve learned our lesson from Valley Stream, where that became a huge problem. So, we’re going to be conservative.”
As for how all of that money is being used, Nagler presented the major expense categories for the school district, breaking down the 2017-2018 budget total into areas such as employee salaries, benefits and more.
“Our salary increases were modest, and benefits actually went down this year, but consequently health insurance went up this year, so it was actually kind of a wash…they actually offset each other this year,” he said. “You can’t look for that every year, and word going around is that pension costs will be going up again as well and health costs are completely unpredictable.”
Nagler said that all student programs and teaching staff that the district had before will be carried over to the following school year, keeping all educational and co-curricular activities up-to-date and on-track, as well as providing for curricular enhancements district-wide.
“What’s in the budget? Everything we currently have…educational, curricular, athletics, continuing our technology plan, plus staff and professional development…that’s very important,” he said. “We continue to push the envelope on cutting-edge programs, such as robotics and coding, and we’re maintaining our facilities.”
The budget includes facility upgrades and equipment updates, including new carpet in the high school library, a library makeover at the middle school, painting at the Hampton Street School and Jackson Avenue School gym, new furniture for classrooms districtwide, new bleachers at the middle school gym and additional Fab Lab equipment/upgrades.
At the polls, residents will also vote for a proposition to expend $4.2 million from the district’s capital reserve fund to assist in funding the Meadow Drive project that will feature an art, music and STEAM wing, in addition to funding a second gym at the high school with a second-floor workout area. The proposition carries no additional cost to the taxpayer.
Also on the ballot will be who will fill two open seats on the board of education. The seats are currently occupied by Margaret Ballantyne-Mannion, PhD and Nicole Matzer, the latter of whom is not running for reelection. Ballantyne-Mannion is seeking another term and the other candidate is Patrick Talty.