The West Hempstead school board adopted the proposed 2012-2013 budget presented by administrators Tuesday night, but the decision was not unanimous.
While five out of the seven board members supported the budget, Trustees Cynthia DiMiceli and Rudolf Schindler voted 'No.'
With the of $172,000 in state aid that local legislators secured for the West Hempstead school district earlier this month, the administration was able to lower the tax levy increase in the proposed budget from presented at the March 27 meeting, to 2.58 percent. The budget-to-budget increase from last year is 1.46 percent.
The adopted budget, which totals $55,188,693, stays under the tax cap limit imposed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new law, and therefore, only requires a majority of voters to approve it.
The administration used the additional state aid to make adjustments to the budget based on community feedback. They were able to give a portion "back to the taxpayers" to lower the tax levy increase, and allocate funds for the implementation of a wireless Internet network (to be financed over the next three years), and the restoration of the intramural programs at the middle school and elementary schools and a guidance counselor at the high school.
Some of the board members including DiMiceli and Vincent Trocchia expressed their frustrations with these final changes.
"We had this whole discussion on how we can do without the guidance counselor," Trocchia said referring to the board's last budget meeting when the administration had proposed eliminating the position, which costs the district $58,000 for salary and another 15 percent for benefits.
"We could survive without the additional counselor," Superintendent John Hogan said, but explained that a number of parents expressed their concerns about eliminating the position because of the "increased emotional needs of the students at the high school."
Hogan said that when the district learned of the extra state aid, they tried to use it to best suit the students and the taxpayers based on the feedback they had received from the community at past meetings.
As a "trade-off" for reinstating the counselor, Hogan also said the administration removed funds that had been allocated for a new marquis sign at the high school and a blacktop project at . After further evaluation they realized these projects were more "wants" than "needs," whereas the blacktop repairs at l were deemed a neccessity and stayed in the budget.
Although Trocchia did not agree with the reinstatement of the guidance counselor and indicated that he preferred this money "go to the taxpayers," he said, "I will still support the budget because 99 percent of it, I agree with."
This was not the case for Schindler and DiMiceli voted against the budget, which prompted outrage from some residents in attendance. When asked by one community member why they did not support the budget, the trustees were willing to explain their reasoning, but Board President Walter Ejnes said it was not the appropriate forum for them to do so.
Earlier in the meeting, DiMiceli, who , had expressed her desire to delay voting on the budget to give the board more time to consider the new recommendations put forth by the administration following the increase in state aid and other issues.
"I value your opinion on this and understand where you are coming for," Ejnes told her. "I get the sense that you think we haven’t spent enough time discussing this budget, but you can say that about every budget ... You’re never going to be 100 percent, they'll always be something you like and don’t like but at some point, the questions have to come to an end and ultimately, you have to make a decision."
Check back for more coverage of the April 17 meeting and other school district news later in the week. You can also visit our topic page for past articles on the 2012-2013 budget.
What do you think of the adopted 2012-2013 school budget? Tell us in the comments space below.