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2019 budget

Miller Place High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place School District Budget

The Miller Place School District is trying to maintain its current programming with a tax levy cap below 2 percent.

The proposed budget figure for the 2019-20 school year is $73,958,607, an increase of more than 1.2 million from the current year’s amount. The district will be receiving $22,600,228 in total state aid, including $14,090,960 in foundation aid. 

The total tax levy amount is $46,928,588, an increase of $638,534 from last year and sticking directly at the 1.38 percent tax levy cap. 

Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said the budget maintains all current programming, despite the relatively low tax levy cap.

“We’re holding onto everything we can,” Cartisano said during a May 7 budget hearing. “We’re holding onto our programs.”

The teachers’ retirement saving rates will go down from 10.62 percent to 9.50 percent and would save the district close to $370,000. 

Miller Place looks to reduce capital project funding from $530,000 to $280,000 for 2019-20, though the district will use $72,335 to add playground equipment. Debt services will decrease by more than $391,000 due in part to the completion of payments to a 2003 renovation bond. 

The new budget will sustain the district’s program initiatives, which include new course offerings at the high school: new social studies and Advanced Placement classes, Common Core algebra math lab, Advanced Placement music theory, science-scientific computing and new electives in the English department. 

Miller Place trustee candidates:

Two seats are open for this year’s Miller Place school board election, and two incumbents are running unopposed. Both seats will be up for three-year terms starting July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022.  Incumbents Johanna Testa, who this year served as the board president, and Noelle Dunlop are the only candidates that have filed nominating petitions. The budget vote and trustee election will take place May 21 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the North Country Road Middle School Gym.

Johanna Testa. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Johanna Testa: 

Testa has served on the board for the past seven years and has held the position of BOE president since 2015. 

Testa hopes, as a board, the administration will continue to look for creative ways to do more with less. As she said one of the main issues facing the district is the challenge of maintaining existing programs and expanding opportunities when a two percent cap doesn’t always mean two percent. 

The board president also wants to enhance the mental health curriculum in schools by offering assemblies and community events for parents. Additionally, she wants to support students in the area of mental health, make sure they are making good choices when it comes to the rise of vaping with products such as Juul, and make sure they are promoting the most positive environment possible in their schools. 

Noelle Dunlop:

Dunlop has served as trustee on the board since 2013. In addition to being on the board, she serves as a parent leader of the Miller Place Explorers 4H Club and has been the president of the Miller Place Friends of the Arts since 2016. 

The board trustee has pointed to the lack of funding at the state and federal levels as an important issue the district is facing. She also wants to increase demands on the budget and will look to remedy the funding issue by lobbying legislators to their cause and pursuing letter writing campaigns to local officials. 

Huntington High School. File photo.

The Huntington Union Free School District finalized the 2019-20 proposed budget, which totals $133.5 million, an increase of 2.83 percent and $3.6 million over the current year’s spending plan. The new budget would raise the tax levy by an estimated 2.58 percent. The tax levy cap amount would be $110,400,611. A home assessed at the district average of $3,415 would see an increase of $220.27. The tax rate will go from $239.36 to $245.81 per $100 of assessed valuation, an increase of 2.69 percent.

Huntington will be receiving $17.9 million in state aid, which is an increase of over $340,000 from the current year budget. Foundation aid for 2019-20 totals at $9.7 million an increase of $225,573. 

The 2019-20 budget will allocate $372,640 for new text and print resources, $93,000 for new computer software, ww$41,900 for new library resources and $200,000 for new instructional equipment, including computers and tablet devices. The budget would also allow for continued core curricular and digital resources, enhanced social and emotional learning program, expanded library and digital media programs, elementary guidance program extension and facility and technological upgrades.

At the May 21 vote, residents will be able to approve an additional proposition that would fund an estimated $3.9 million worth of projects. According to the district, it will not result in any increase in taxes since the funds exist in a reserve fund established to cover costs with renovation and reconstruction work.

Huntington High School

•Replacement of set of boilers that are more than 60 years old: $1.5 million

•Partial roof replacement: $1 million

•Turf athletic field replacement: $650,000

•Perimeter safety netting system enhancement and replacement at the turf athletic field: $55,000

•Replacement of goal posts at the turf athletic field: $41,000

•Building total: $3.246 million

Finley Middle School

•Replacement of the building’s student lockers that are 54 years old: $600,000

Huntington Union Free School District board of education candidates

Huntington school district board of education candidates: This year there will be three trustee seats open on the ballot. The top two finishers will win election to three-year terms commencing July 1 and running through June 30, 2022. Current two-term trustee Bari Fehrs has chosen not to run for re-election.

Bill Dwyer 

Current board member Dwyer will be seeking re-election for the 2019-20 school year. He has been elected a member previously in 2008 and 2013, which includes a tenure as board president. Dwyer and his wife, Karen have resided in Huntington for the past 21 years and they are the parents of three Huntington High School graduates. 

Michele Kustera

The challenger has lived in the district for the past 16 years and has a daughter in her freshman year at Huntington High School and a daughter who is a sixth grader at Woodhull Intermediate School. Kustera has volunteered and raised money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation Team Fox by running the New York City marathon twice. She has served on the district’s Long-Range Planning Committee, Food Allergy Committee and serves as the PTA council president. 

Joseph Mattio 

Mattio and his wife, Stefania, have resided in Huntington for the past 21 years. They currently have two sons attending district schools; a sixth-grader at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School and a junior at Huntington High School. The Huntington resident has served on the Huntington Booster Club’s board of directors for the past five years and has coordinated field house operations on game days during that time. He has been active in the community, coaching teams in the St. Hugh’s basketball, Huntington Village Lacrosse Club and Huntington Sports League football organizations. 

Boat mooring fee moves forward, new parks and recreational program fee increases to take effect Jan. 1

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington’s elected officials have adopted a $199.7 million operating budget for 2019 on a party-line vote at their Nov. 20 meeting, as Republicans and Democrats were split over town staffing changes and increases to fees.

The adopted 2019 budget raises $122.8 million through the tax levy, roughly $3 million more than the current year, representing a 2.53 percent increase. It falls under New York State’s mandated tax levy increase cap by approximately $80,0000, including $371,000 in rollover savings from 2018 and accounts for growth in the town’s tax base valued at roughly $400,000.

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) amended the 2019 budget prior to approval to reinstate funding for four legislative secretaries — one for each town council member — which had been slashed from his first proposal. Lupinacci said a $200,000 federal grant received for the Huntington Youth Bureau’s drug and alcohol programs also helped free up funds.

I think it’s a good budget that will be very responsible to constituents that keeps within the tax cap…” 

— Chad Lupinacci

“I think it’s a good budget that will be very responsible to constituents that keeps within the tax cap, and it had good planning for the future in capital expenses and programs, so we can continue to hold our triple AAA credit rating that is very important,” he said.

Democratic council members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol voted against the supervisor’s 2019 operating budget, arguing it was too much for Huntington’s taxpayers.

“The supervisor is asking residents to accept a double whammy: increased taxes and high, in some cases, first-ever fees for services they rightly feel are already funded by their taxes,” Cergol said.

Cergol proposed a series of changes to the supervisor’s 2019 tentative budget Nov. 20, seeking to reduce the tax levy increase from 2.53 down to 1.85 percent. Her proposed changes would have eliminated 12 town jobs — three confidential secretaries, a chief of staff, three executive assistants and five deputy department directors — many of which were created in August. The councilwoman said slashing these positions would save the town approximately $800,000 in salaries, increasing to nearly $1 million when including the cost of health care insurance benefits.

The supervisor is asking residents to accept a double whammy: increased taxes and high, in some cases, first-ever fees for services they rightly feel are already funded by their taxes.”

— Joan Cergol

“Naturally, I would prefer to have no tax increase at all, but I well understand we have contractual obligation expenses and a 9 percent increase in health care insurance costs the town has no control over,” Cergol said. “For the sake of every taxpayer, we have an obligation to exercise control when it comes to the hiring of personnel, specifically jobs that are exempt from civil service, otherwise known as patronage jobs.”

She also sought to strike and remove the town’s plans to implement a boat mooring fee in Huntington Harbor. Cuthbertson voiced his support for Cergol’s proposed amendments.

“At a time when homeowner’s budgets are squeezed, and they have lost most of the state and local deduction on their income taxes, the Republican administration should not be asking for increases that serve no purpose other than doling out patronage,” the councilman said.

Despite his support, Cergol’s first proposal to slash $1 million from the budget failed by a 3-2 party-line vote. Her second proposal to eliminate $200,000 by cutting staff positions and the proposed boat mooring fee failed to find any support among the board members.

Lupinacci defended his staffing decisions, stating the Town of Huntington will have less full-time employees going forward next year, and changes were in line with his goals that include improving transparency and efficiency by cutting “red tape.”

New 2019 Park & Recreational Fees
Below are few of the new 2019 park and recreational fees
Adult Resident Recreational ID Card, 2 years      $40
(new) Adult Resident Recreational ID Card, 1 year     $25
Resident Recreational ID Card – Senior/Disabled      $15
Golf Card, valid for 1 year     $45
Golf Card, every 2 years        $60
Beach Resident Daily Permit      $30
Non-Resident Daily Permit         $75

“I think these are all worthwhile goals that we will continue to accomplish, and to meet these goals we need to have staffing changes,” he said.

The board also voted 3-2 to increase and add several additional park and recreational fees next year. Some changes in the legislation include increasing the cost of a two-year resident recreational card from $20 to $40, increasing the cost of a daily beach pass for Huntington residents from $25 to $30, and implementing new special event permit fees for John J. Walsh Memorial Park in East Northport, Peter A. Nelson Park in Huntington and picnic site fees for Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park in Elwood.

The registration costs for several town-run summer programs including Camp Bright Star, Teen Leadership and preschool camps were increased as well.

“We’re always looking at and reviewing fees every year as part of the budgeting process to ensure the fees actually cover associated program costs,” the supervisor said. “We revise rates for various programs and actions, to make sure taxpayers are not on the hook for programs they don’t use.”

Lupinacci said costs of the town’s recreational ID card fee, $20, had not been increased in more than a decade, and the new $40 fee more accurately reflects its “true value going forward.” The town will also be offering a new one-year recreational ID card for $20.

Cergol and Cuthbertson were against increasing recreational fees, which will take effect Jan. 1.

Huntington Town Clerk JoAnn Raia hands out copies of the 2019 Tentative Budget to the town council. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The first draft of the Town of Huntington’s 2019 budget prepared by Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) was immediately met by sharp criticism and divided the town council.

Lupinacci presented a draft of the town’s 2019 budget calling for a $122.8 million tax levy, or an increase of 2.53 percent from the current year, at the Sept. 20 town board meeting. The proposed 2019 budget falls under New York State’s mandated tax levy increase cap by approximately $80,000, includes $371,000 in rollover savings from 2018, and accounts for growth in the town’s tax base valued at roughly $400,000.

I have taken a conservative approach to expenditure allocations, using previous actuals as a baseline for these costs.”

— Chad Lupinacci

“I have taken a conservative approach to expenditure allocations, using previous actuals as a baseline for these costs,” the supervisor wrote in an open letter presenting the budget. “Particular focus was given to employee salaries, overtime and benefits.”

Lupinacci said some of the challenges faced in drafting the 2019 budget included accounting for contractually mandated collective bargaining increases for all town union employees and a 9 percent increase in employee medical costs. He has suggested appropriating $750,000 from the town’s fund balance to help cover costs in three areas: the consolidated refuse fund, street lighting and the Huntington sewer district.

“I have incorporated realistic revenue budgeting, and have not relied upon one-shot revenues as a means of balancing the 2019 Tentative Budget,” the supervisor wrote.

The budget draft immediately received sharp criticism by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) who took issue with the supervisor’s suggestion of eliminating one staff member each from each of the four board members’ personnel. Cuthbertson dubbed Lupinacci’s proposal “the height of hypocrisy” pointing to eight individuals who serve the supervisor’s office, in addition to the town board reinstating nine employees and creating 14 new staff positions in August.

In all the time I have been here, council people have had a staff of one secretary, one legislative aide, much like what is afforded our county legislators and members of the state Assembly. “

— Mark Cuthbertson

“In all the time I have been here, council people have had a staff of one secretary, one legislative aide, much like what is afforded our county legislators and members of the state Assembly,” Cuthbertson said. “Now that we have a bloated budget with these positions created in a naked power grab, he seeks to eliminate the people that help council members do their job and, in many respects, holds the administration accountable to the people of this town.”

Lupinacci said he had personally pulled all town board members aside prior to the formal release of the 2019 Tentative Budget to inform them of his proposed staffing changes. He explained his vision is that each councilperson would keep their legislative aide, who assists in policy research and handling calls from residents, and would share one combined office manager or secretary.

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) also spoke out against the proposed 2019 staffing changes.

I am not okay with the tentative budget decision regarding town council personnel which were made without consultation of fellow town board colleagues,” she said. “We, like our supervisor, must serve our constituents and this budget decision diminishes that ability.”

We, like our supervisor, must serve our constituents and this budget decision diminishes that ability.”

— Joan Cergol

In response to the proposed 2019 budget, Cuthbertson was the sole vote against reinstating four town employee positions. These staff openings include a Spanish-speaking office assistant for Town Clerk JoAnn Raia (R) at $9,260 and a dispatcher requested by Superintendent of Highways Kevin Orelli (D).

“I requested and have complete justification for a Spanish-speaking typist,” Raia said. “I have couples coming in all day long for marriage licenses, divorce documents and other documents that are in Spanish and need translation. That is a critical need in my office.”

Lupinacci said the elimination of the four positions is due to employees being replaced over time, largely due to resignations or promotions. Raia confirmed the Spanish-speaking typist submitted a resignation two weeks ago after serving with the town for four years after receiving another job offer.

“I didn’t single out any position,” Cuthbertson said. “I think we were in a better position to budget and pay for it, if we had not gone on a spending spree with patronage jobs in August.

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