Three Village adopts budget within 2.41 percent tax cap

Three Village adopts budget within 2.41 percent tax cap

Cheryl Pedisich speaks at the podium after receiving the first-ever Administrator of the Year award from the New York State School Counselor Association. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

Bolstered by a $6.6 million bump in aid from the state, Three Village adopted April 13 a $198.8 million budget for the upcoming school year that school administrators say will enhance the district’s programs. There is also a plan to add transportation options for students not previously not included.

Included in the $46.5 million aid package is a $2.9 million increase in building aid to defray costs for payments on the bond, which are due in the coming year. The aid contributes to the tax levy increase — 2.3 percent — being lower than the budget increase, 4.85 percent, said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services.

The end of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which took money from school aid to supplement the state budget, has brought a $3.3 million windfall to the district. Since its inception during the 2009-10 school year, Three Village has lost $32.4 million, Carlson said.

Carlson said the district will not need to reduce services to stay within the 2.41 percent tax cap — the allowable amount by which the tax levy can increase.

Residents, though, will vote on a separate proposition that could raise the tax levy to the cap. The proposal is to eliminate the minimum distance students must live to get bus transportation. If the measure passes, all junior high and high school students, who currently live too close to their schools to be eligible, will get transportation. The cost will be $160,000 for two additional buses, which will raise the tax levy increase to 2.41 percent.

While the overall budget would increase to $198.9 million, the district will get an additional $70,000 from the state for transportation. Carlson said that providing bus transportation for all students would address safety concerns about crossing busy streets such as Nicolls Road and walking along narrow, sidewalk-less roads, such as Christian Avenue and Quaker Path.

Not only will the district not need to cut programs to remain within the cap, the administration is recommending that positions be added — or reinstated — to enhance existing programs. In addition to the increased aid from the state, a decrease in payments to the employee retirement systems by $1.1 million, as well as declining enrollment, will help to make this feasible.

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said there will be a decrease in the number of elementary students in the district by about 120 to 125 children next year. She recommended the reassignment of 3.0 full-time equivalent teaching positions to academic intervention services at the elementary level instead of laying off staff. Additionally, some of the restored GEA money would go toward two more positions so that each of the five elementary schools would have its own AIS specialist. This would put the district in compliance with AIS and response to intervention mandates, as well as provide the “kind of support that our students need in terms of their mathematical studies,” Pedisich said.

The superintendent’s recommendations also include adding 1.6 FTEs at the secondary level to rebuild Ward Melville’s business department into a “robust” program, with offerings such as virtual enterprise and web and app design; a 0.4 FTE increase to American Sign Language, which has been extended to the junior highs; and a 0.8 FTE increase to expand the high school writing center and to start writing centers at both junior high schools.

Pedisich also noted that there would be a new computer science course at the two junior highs to bridge the elementary STEM program and the reinstated AP computer science class offered at the high school. No additional staff will be needed for this program, she said.

The new budget also covers a second technology lead to provide professional development to faculty and a mentor/behavioral consultant for special education, the largest department in the district, Pedisich said.

Three Village will also bring back assistant coaches for safety, supervision and instruction and will add a “floating” nurse, an assistant director of facilities and an additional 2.0 FTEs for clerical staff in the music and instructional technology departments.

Pedisich assured the school board that all positions are sustainable. “The last thing we want to do is add something and then pull it away two years later,” she said.

The district, which is reimbursed for 66 percent of the cost of its capital projects, has planned a number of upgrades. The projects include reconfiguring the Setauket Elementary School bus loop for better traffic flow, adding air conditioners to the elementary school auditoriums and junior high cafeterias, and adding a generator at W.S. Mount Elementary School. Also proposed are a career and technology education classroom at the North Country administration building, and plumbing repairs and asbestos abatement throughout the district.

The public will vote on the budget and two board seats on May 17. Voting will take place at local elementary schools. This year, for security reasons, people who usually vote at Arrowhead Elementary will go to Ward Melville High School, and those who normally vote at W.S. Mount Elementary will do so at Murphy Junior High. The change comes because the layout of the schools requires voters to walk through the buildings to get to the polling stations, and security is not allowed to ask for identification.