Malverne school officials presented a plan for the district's 2013-2014 budget Tuesday night that cuts less than three full-time faculty positions, keeps its academic and extracurricular programs intact, and even returns money to taxpayers. However, the proposal is contingent upon the governor's pension reforms being approved next month.
To bring some stability to the state's pension system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a proposed a plan that would give districts the option to keep their contribution rates the same -- 12.5 percent for the Teachers Retirement System and 12 percent for the Employees Retirement System -- for the next 25 years. Malverne's Business Administrator Thomas McDaid likened it to a fixed-rate mortgage as he presented the administration’s budget recommendations at the Feb. 12 Board of Education meeting. If districts wanted to switch back to a flexible rate, McDaid said the plan would include a buy-out option.
If the TRS board and State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who manages the ERS system, accept Cuomo’s plan, the Malverne School District would save roughly $450,000, according to McDaid.
Assuming the plan will be approved, Malverne school officials are proposing a budget that would cut only 2.9 full-time-equivalent (FTE) faculty positions including one full-time K-6 elementary school teacher, one full-time special education instructor and one full-time social worker. There will be partial staffing reductions in art (0.4), music (0.4), health and physical education (0.4), technology and consumer science (0.3), business (0.2) and psychology (0.6). Clerical and custodial staff positions would be reduced by 1.5 FTEs. McDaid also said this plan would eliminate various administrative positions for a savings of $175K, but could not go into details.
In response to the deadly school shooting in Connecticut in December, Malverne is planning to increase security at all its buildings and is budgeting $202,942 to add 4.5 full-time-equivalent security positions.
Compared to last year’s budget, the largest increase in the proposed 2013-14 budget is debt service. This is the first year the district will make payments on the $14.1 million bond voters approved in November 2010 to upgrade the district's elementary schools and athletic fields. To offset the bond expenses, which increased by roughly $736K, the state plans to increase Malverne’s building aid by $577,350. However, like other Long Island school districts, Malverne saw a drop in its High Tax Aid this year, which will be $419,784 less under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget.
Spending on technology equipment is also increasing by more than $200K as Malverne prepares to implement a state-mandated computerized testing program that all districts must adopt by 2014-2015. It requires schools to have enough computers so that every student in its largest class can take a digital test at once.
Contractual raises (“lane movements”) for teachers will also go up $200K, and teacher retirements and tax grievance settlements will each increase by roughly $100K.
Decreasing in the draft 2013-2014 budget are the district’s transportation costs, which are down by more than $176K, tuition to Nassau BOCES for special education and occupational classes (-$255K), tuition to charter schools (-$118K), utility expenses (-$100K) and insurance (-$110K).
To stay within the New York State tax cap, Malverne would be permitted to raise its tax levy (the total amount of money collected from taxpayers) by up to 2.49 percent or $960,800 for 2013-2014, and only require a 50-percent majority vote. The district also plans to continue its commitment to return $1.7 million to taxpayers to offset the increases.
The 2013-14 budget is still not set in stone. It will be reviewed and discussed in public six more times – Feb. 26, March 5, March 12, March 19, April 9 and May 14 – before the final proposal is adopted by the Board of Education and taxpayers vote on it on May 21.
Should the budget fail to gain the support of at least 50 percent of voters, the district can decide to revise it or put the same one up for a re-vote on June 18. A failure the second time around would force the district to go on a contingency plan, which would result in roughly $1 million being cut from the current budget draft in order to keep the tax levy increase at zero percent.
Click here to view the full presentation delivered at the Feb. 12 meeting.