Cardillo announces cuts over coffee

Bill San Antonio

Manhasset School District Superintendent Charles Cardillo announced during his “Coffee With Cardillo” public budget information sessions last week that the board of education had reduced the proposed 2013-14 budget by about $1.6 million in advance of its April 17 adoption date in preparation for the May 21 vote.

The most notable reductions, Cardillo said during his presentation at the Manhasset Public Library, came in staffing, where the board recently agreed to cut one section of second grade classes at Shelter Rock and Munsey Park elementary schools, a provision worth $200,601.

Previously, the board agreed to eliminate four proposed teacher’s assistant positions and one section of kindergarten at Munsey Park Elementary due to a decrease in projected enrollment. 

“We’re conscious with how concerned people are about our staffing,” Cardillo said.

The board will also be aided by a new state pension contribution stabilization program, which Cardillo said will reduce the working budget by $1.2 million. 

Cardillo said state-mandated pension contributions to the teachers retirement system were 16.25 percent higher than last year’s and had increased 262 percent since 2009-10. Contributions to the employee retirement system, which increased 20.90 percent since last year, have increased 299 percent since 2009-10, he said.

Following its last work session, Cardillo said the district had lowered its budget-to-budget increase to 2.71 percent and its tax levy had decreased from 8.78 percent on March 2 to 6.47 percent. 

Over last four years, the district used approximately $8.5 million in reserve funds to offset tax levy increases, but the district no longer has those funds available and Cardillo said that’s why this year’s tax levy increase has been so high.

“You know, it’s funny, we didn’t get any phone calls in the last four years calling for us to go raise the tax levy,” he said

Cardillo announced that the board would continue to look for ways to reduce the budget and tax levy by April 17, with the goal of honoring Manhasset’s devotion to the “4 As” of academics, athletics, activities and the arts.”

“We’re trying to maintain that even with the tax cap legislation and the 60 percent supermajority vote,” he said.

If the budget is not passed after two votes, however, the board will be forced to reduce the preliminary budget by $4,916,421 and may not be able to keep that promise.

Cardillo said in that scenario, the district would have to consider eliminating all interscholastic athletics, before- and after-school programs, and class sections throughout the district, a move that would drastically shake up Manhasset’s class-size guidelines. 

“If the first vote goes down, I can assure you there will be many people attending meetings because you’ll have a lot of people saying, ‘I didn’t realize all this would amount to having to cut all these programs’” he said.

Despite such a high tax levy when compared with those from the last few years, the district’s five-year budget-to-budget average increase is currently 2.16 percent and its five-year tax levy increase is 2.65 percent, Cardillo said.

“On March 2, we showed you the five-year totals and asked if you supported it, and someone said not only would he support it, he’d be all in,” Cardillo said. “Well, this is the question we have: Is Manhasset all in? Do you still support us?”

Following the presentation, the board polled audience support of the current budget information. Six of the eight who participated in the poll voted in favor of the district’s direction, according to the interactive results.

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