Comsewogue school district representatives said they focused on keeping increases low while dealing with a decrease in school enrollment.
The Comsewogue Union Free School District has proposed a $93,974,755 budget for the 2019-20 school year, an increase of $2,027,025 from last year.
Included in the budget is a proposed tax levy, the amount of money the district raises from taxes, of $57,279,755, a 2 percent increase of $1,140,786, below this year’s tax levy cap of 3 percent.
One of the main foci of the budget was for child mental health awareness.
“Everybody we met with, everyone was in agreement, students’ mental health and well-being — it was important to put more money into the budget for social and emotional learning and mental health issues,” assistant superintendent Susan Casali said.
One increase came in the form of pupil personnel services from $3,322,061 to $3,678,447. PPL aids students with special needs.
While the district experienced a total enrollment decline of 40 students, the number of students with special needs has increased, according to the assistant superintendent, and each of those young people is more expensive overall than a typical student. In addition, the district is hiring one additional social worker and a new social worker teacher’s assistant.
“That’s why you don’t see the budget going down — there are students that cost us a lot more money,” Casali said.
Other major increases include a 27 percent and $696,209 increase in debt services, but this is offset slightly by a $570,000 or 33 percent decrease in interfund transfers.
In terms of state aid, the district received a moderate increase from $31,800,000 to $32,700,000.
In addition to the budget vote, the district is asking residents to vote on proposition 2, which would establish a capital reserve fund. This allows Comsewogue to set aside money for future capital projects, when it will require district residents again to take money out of the reserve. Casali said this is funded through unallocated funds the district has by the end of the year, and the fund does not increase taxes.
In the meantime, the district is going ahead with the first phase of its bond project; bids were scheduled to go out to companies in April. District voters approved the $32 million bond last year, which the district said would go up in several phases. The first phase, costing about $5.8 million, will complete work on the parking lots at the Boyle Road Elementary School and the Terryville Elementary School, along with the creation of security vestibules in all school buildings and adding new locks to doors throughout the high school building.
The district is lauding its Moody’s bond rating of AA2, and expects to have to keep up on payments for the next three years in order to maintain that rating.
Comsewogue will host its budget hearing May 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the district office board room. The budget vote will take place May 21, in Comsewogue High School from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.