Three Village school board gives failed budget a second try

Three Village school board gives failed budget a second try

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The Three Village Central School District Board of Education will put its rejected budget up for a second vote. At its May 25 meeting, the board elected to resubmit the failed budget unaltered for taxpayers’ approval. 

“Since this is what the majority supported, this is what we should put forward,” said Jeff Carlson, deputy superintendent for business services, during a phone interview last week. 

Although 57.7% of taxpayers voted in favor of the $222.6 million budget — 2,286-1,677 — it failed to pass. That was because the proposed budget pierced the 1.37% cap on the tax levy increase, necessitating a supermajority approval, or 60% of the vote, to pass.

The failed budget has a tax levy increase of 1.85%, which officials say would bring in an additional $777,000 in revenue and represents a tax levy difference of $58 per year for the average taxpayer.   

“We want to get back on track” and position the district for long-term financial stability, Carlson said of the decision to pierce the cap.  

After spending close to $7 million from district reserves to enable a full reopening last September, the district needs to start paying itself back. It has budgeted about $800,000 to do so in the coming year.

Carlson added that the district needs to have flexibility in its budget in case there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall. After a year of having schools open to all students every day, “we don’t want to go backward,” he said.   

The district is receiving $1.85 million in federal aid, which is earmarked for COVID-related expenses. While some districts received much larger allocations and must spread out their spending, Three Village does not have such restrictions, Carlson said. District officials would like to use the money over the next two years. Carlson explained that a one-time use would create a gap in the budget that would then need to be filled in the following year.

If the budget fails again, there will be no increase to the tax levy. That would mean a shortfall of about $3 million and that major construction or improvements to district property would not take place. Carlson said during the interview that it would not be disastrous, and the district would “make it as painless as possible for the kids.” He also said the district would then use all of the federal money for the coming year. 

Cuts would likely be made to some electives, and class sizes might increase on a district level, Carlson said. He added that funds budgeted for capital projects, which under a passed budget could only be used for building repairs and other maintenance and improvements, could be shifted to other areas of the budget. 

“Our buildings are in good shape,” he said, and it would be better to put capital projects on hold for a year rather than adversely impact academic programs.

The budget hearing was due to be held Wednesday, June 2. The revote will take place, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday, June 15, at Ward Melville High School located at 380 Old Town Road. The vote will take place in one location to make it easier for community members to know  where to go, Carlson said.

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