Come May 19, Rocky Point Union Free School District residents will take to the polls and vote on the district’s proposed 2015-16 school year budget, which would increase the tax levy by about 1.7 percent over the current year — slightly less than how much administrators previously expected to raise taxes.
Since budget talks began earlier this year, district officials estimated the tax levy increase at 1.97 percent. But at an April 22 school board meeting, district Superintendent Michael Ring announced the lower levy increase, after the district received additional state building aid for next year. According to aid projections from New York State, the district is set to receive a total aid package of more than $27 million.
The district had a difficult budget process this year, as it faces an increase in special education costs.
Between more students being schooled outside of the district and those with high-cost Individualized Education Program plans, the special education budget line will increase by nearly 13 percent. According a recent budget presentation, with BOCES services and tuition for outside and private placements, the district is looking at spending more than $7.3 million.
Assistant Superintendent Deborah DeLuca said officials tried to keep some special education students in-house, but was unable to do so.
“Quite honestly, there was no way of grouping them, with their needs and their IEPs, for us to do that here. … We wouldn’t be able to have nice, clean groups and it would be difficult to support,” she said.
Ring said creating a more robust special education program at Rocky Point to educate the students makes sense, but supporting it over the years could be a challenge.
“If we don’t get people to enroll in our program, what happens?” Ring said.
Because of that budget line’s increase, administrators said there would be a decrease in the district’s Striving for Higher Achievement at Rocky Point, known as SHARP, at the elementary level. The district is cutting the afterschool program, but summer SHARP would continue and other extra help would still be offered.
Ring said that after reviewing the numbers, there wasn’t a strong correlation between placement in the program and a child’s outcome, as students received the services for a brief time — from one hour to no more than four hours a week.
The move will save the district between $150,000 and $170,000, according to Ring.
A public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. on May 5 in the Rocky Point High School auditorium.