Ed board preps for $102M budget vote

Bill San Antonio

Roslyn residents will vote May 21 on a $102 million school budget for the 2013-14 school year, three uncontested trustee positions along the board of education, two propositions regarding the district’s spending practices, and the 2013-14 Bryant Library budget. 

The district’s $102 million budget represents a 2.63 percent increase from last year, with the district’s tax levy increasing 2.11 percent from $89,050,882 in 2012-13 to $91,050,882.

Roslyn Superintendent of Schools Dan Brenner said in a column released last month that the budget increase was “among the lowest in the area.”

“In fact, over five years, the average increase in the tax levy in Roslyn has been about 1.4 percent,” Brenner said. “This is less than the rate of inflation, and less even than the “tax cap” allows the district to spend. 

Assistant Superintendent for Business Joseph Dragone said in an April 17 board of education meeting that Roslyn has the eighth lowest tax levy among the 46 school districts he had surveyed.

“Ironically, in two of the school districts that are lower than us, one of them has 176 children [total], and the other more flexibility in their tax levy than we have,” Dragone said.

The district’s total tax levy stands at $91,050,882, and its rate is expected to increase slightly, from $780.86 in 2012-13 to $818.10 for 2013-14, Dragone said.

“We believe it is appropriate for us to take advantage of the financial situation that we’re in, and not burden the taxpayers any more than we need to, and that’s why we’re recommending this,” Dragone said.

“The last few years, I believe, the public has voted over 70 percent to pass the budget,” he said.

According a budget overview, the largest increases in the budget result from teacher and employee retirement pensions, employee health benefits, and workers compensation. 

The tax levy was reduced by the use of reserve funds and the elimination or reassigning of some teachers at the elementary level due to a decrease in enrollment, school officials said.  

Incumbent Trustees Bruce Valauri and Steven Litvack, and newcomer David Dubner, of the district’s Citizens Audit Advisory Committee, are running for the three open trustee positions along the board of education. 

The two candidates who receive the highest vote totals in the election will earn full, three-year terms, while the candidate who finishes third will complete the remaining two years on former Trustee Dani Kline’s term.

Dubner, 37, said he has regularly attended board of education meetings over the last few years in addition to his work on the district’s Citizens Audit Advisory Committee, which reviews the district’s financial statements.

“I want to give back to the community and make a positive contribution to the district,” Dubner said in a phone interview with Blank Slate Media.

Dubner, who has lived in East Hills since 2007 with his wife and three children, said he hopes his professional experience, which includes time as an accountant and practicing lawyer prior to his becoming an investment banker for Goldman Sachs, will positively contributes to what he calls the district’s “prudent financial planning” that the board has maintained in recent years.

“One thing I’ve learned about school boards, from the outside looking in, is that it’s important to remember we’re trying to make the school district the best it can be,” Dubner said. “Community building begins with our schools, and I want to partner with students, teachers, administration and the broader Roslyn community to ensure our schools are a beacon for other districts to follow.”

Kline announced her resignation at the April 4 board of education meeting, saying she would be moving.

“It’s been an incredible experience, to be trusted by the community with such an important and meaningful role,” Kline said at the meeting. “I have thoroughly enjoyed the connections, relationships and mentoring that has taken place with the administration and with my fellow board members. I have much to be thankful for.”  

Kline was first elected to the school board in a special election in the fall of 2004 and was re-elected three times since, according to a release issued by the district. She served three years as the school board’s president and was among the first of the new trustees elected in the immediate aftermath of the district’s financial scandal during the mid-2000s.

By announcing her resignation in April, as opposed to the end of the year, Kline’s seat may be contested in the May 21 election, according to the release.

Valauri, an East Hills resident who works as a dentist, just completed his first term on the school board.

Litvack, an East Hills resident who works as the president of the Center for Allied Health & Nursing Education in Hackensack, N.J., won a special election in October 2012 to fill the seat left by Stanley Stern, who resigned from the board last July.

With 301 votes, Litvack defeated Tanya Novelli and Seth Berman, who earned 140 votes and 45 votes, respectively.

Voters will also be asked to approved two propositions.

Proposition 3 asks voters to authorize the board of education to use $4,062,000 from the capital reserve funds that have already been set aside to continue the district’s capital improvement program.  

Proposition 4 voters asks to approve the lease/purchase of five vehicles to replace older vehicles in the district’s fleet that are no longer road-worthy for the transportation of students. In years past, the acquisition of school buses was included as a regular line in the school budget. However, leasing companies now require specific voter approval for such transactions. 

The Bryant Library has proposed a $4,895,209 operating budget for the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal year, with $4,680,914 to be raised from taxes.

The library’s director, Cathy Mealing, said by phone that the figures fall within the state’s mandated tax cap, representative of a 1.98 percent tax cap increase. 

The 2013-14 budget represents a 1.82 percent increase from the library’s 2012-13 budget.  

The library has budgeted for $3,908,716 in staff, a figure that combines salaries, retirement funds, social security/medicare, health/dental insurance and worker’s compensation/disability. 

In addition, the library plans to double its contract services expenditure, from $10,700 in 2012-13 to $20,700 for the upcoming year. Mealing said the reason for this is because the library plans to add a tech consultant in the coming year.

The library has budgeted $18,450 for the coming year in “staff development/programs/workshops,” up from the $9,200 it used in 2012-13, in planning a trip to the Public Library Association Conference June 27-July 2 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Mealing said.

Initially, the library budgeted $16,450 under the same expenditure line for the current year, as representatives were scheduled to attend the 2012 New York Library Association Conference in Saratoga, which was canceled following Hurricane Sandy. 

The library has budgeted to receive $22,898 in its funding request from the Nassau Library System, which determines funding based on library size and residential population. 

The Nassau Library System provides services, discounts on database fees and provides workshops.

Conversely, the library has budgeted fort $14,200 in library system grants and state aid, as Mealing said she expects reimbursement from a boiler replaced within the last year. 

The library has budgeted $50,000 toward capital improvement projects, which is $20,000 less than it budgeted for 2012-13 but only $500 more than it actually used. 

Mealing said the library planned to replace an air conditioning system as well as a phone system, but officials realized the project would not be completed by the end of the 2012-13 year.

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Bill San Antonio

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