Seaford school officials have begun laying the groundwork for the district's 2013/14 budget in the midst of a challenging fiscal climate.
The Seaford School District was forced to operate on a contingency budget for the 2011-12 school year following two rejected spending proposals by voters but able to pass last May’s $57.8 million spending plan. Leading into the 2013/14 budget planning process, the district got a boost from voters approving a $5 million sale of the former Seaford Avenue School property in December, but got bad news when Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his executive budget last month showing a 6.88 percent drop in state aid. The district also must contend with the state's tax cap rule that took effect for the current school year.
During a presentation at Thursday night's school board meeting, Interim Assistant Superintendent for Business Alan Philips said unless further help from the state is given, the district's allowable tax levy increase will only be 2.2 percent. Last year Seaford was allowed to raise the tax levy by 2.93 percent but opted to go with 2.5 percent in order to have a better shot of passing the budget. The tax levy is the total amount that a district must raise in property taxes in order to meet expenses.
Phillips said districts had been given guidance last year that going below the allowable tax levy would permit a carryover this year, but that rule was then changed by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. If the carryover was allowed, Seaford would be allowed a tax levy hike of 2.6 percent, which equates to an additional $190,000.
"The tax levy limit will not permit the district to meet its financial responsibilities without making significant budgetary reductions," said Phillips explained during his presentation Thursday night at Seaford Manor School.
A big reason why Seaford's state aid total is down in Cuomo's preliminary budget plan is , which is provided to districts in mostly downstate regions who have higher expenses than upstate. Seaford Superintendent of Schools Brian Conboy expressed major frustration at Cuomo's decision to lash high tax aid to Long Island districts during Thursday night's school board meeting.
"That was abominable what they did," Conboy said. "That was literarily taking money from Long Island and giving it to everyone else."
Conboy said he does expect Seaford to receive some additional aid from Albany by the time a final state budget is adopted by legislators but that it will likely still be a decrease from last year. The school board is scheduled to discuss the budget in more detail at its next meeting scheduled for Feb. 28 at Seaford Manor School starting at 7:30 p.m.