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Farmingdale School Budget: District Uses Aid Restoration To Lower Tax Levy, Board Adopts Budget

The tax levy was lowered from 2.96% to 2.52%.

The Farmingdale School District Board of Education adopted a $146,957,711 budget Wednesday night, which calls for a 2.52% tax levy and represents a decrease in spending from last year.

The tax levy in the original proposal – 2.96% – was lowered after the district found out it will receive a of around $489,194 as a result of the state legislature putting $272 million of education aid back into Governor Cuomo's budget.

This restoration represents just 11 percent of the more than $4 million Farmingdale lost through the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a reduction to the district’s total aid formula that the state imposed to balance the state budget this year.

The district could have used this restoration to restore program reductions that were made in the , to mitigate the impact of potential mid-year cuts or to off-set the tax levy for the community like it decided.

“After conversations with the Board of Education and understanding the fiscal climate that we are in, the recommendation was to use the additional state aid we have received from the legislature in order to off-set taxes,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Paul Defendini.

The district faces a loss of more than $1 million in federal funding on the revenue side, while state-mandated costs like retirement system contributions and health insurance have increased 35 percent and 15 percent respectively.

To help off-set these revenue losses and rising expenses, the budget uses $1,803,251 from the reserves and $5,196,749 from the fund balance - the money left over from last year- a total of $7 million.

Important to note in this year’s budget is the Federal Jobs funding, a one-time federal grant of $920,773 being used to mitigate district layoffs. The way in which this number is recorded in the budget impacts the year-to-year budget comparisons: With the funding, the school budget is $147,878,484, which is .72% less than last year’s budget. Without the funding (which is how the district is required to report its budget in the Property Tax Report Card and other publications) the budget is $146,957,711, which is 1.34% less than last year’s budget.

“We’ve incorporated that [Federal Jobs funding] into our presentations to make sure it is clear to our community that we have received this additional money from the federal government and we are using it for what it was intended for, to offset layouts,” Defendini said. “It is a funding source that is in the budget right now … but when it is removed in order to code it in a different area the actual budget is $146,957,711, negative 1.34%, which is what you are going to see in the publications for the budget out there.”

The $1.07 million of program reductions this year (that’s the figure with the Federal Jobs funding) includes reducing district staff, combining seventh- and eighth- grade sports teams and eliminating after-school clubs at all grade levels with the least student interest in September, administrators said. The budget maintains an average district-wide class size of 21.71, but fewer sections of some subjects are being offered.

During the public participation sessions, residents at the meeting talked about the difficult financial circumstances of  the time, asking the board to consider the community’s “ability to pay,” and about keeping Farmingdale competitive and full of opportunities for the 6,000 district students.

All Board of Education members voted to adopt the budget Wednesday night. Voter registration will be held . The Board of Education will meet next on and

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