Note: The original version of this article incorrectly indicated the additional state aid being received for 2012-13. Patch regrets the error.
The is proposing a budget for the 2012-2013 school year that and uses reserves to maintain the exact program offered in 2011-2012.
The proposed $150,722,816 budget calls for a 2.14 percent tax levy increase and represents a 1.92 percent, or $2,844,332, increase in spending from last year's budget.
"We always have lived in a volatile political environment and that political environment has determined the amount of support we are going to get from the state," said Superintendent John Lorentz at last week's first budget workshop. "We've developed our fund balance and reserves for the purpose of maintaining our programs so we can provide a predictable and sustainable program to our students. We have done that and will continue to."
The Tax Cap
"So 2 percent is not really 2 percent and, even it it was 2 percent, it is still not 2 percent," said Assistant Superintendent for Business Paul Defendini of the tax cap New York State mandated on school districts this year.
Defendini said he's using this statement to make clear that individual tax bills are not capped at a 2 percent increase, that it is the tax levy (the total number collected from all the district's taxpayers) that is capped at a theoretical 2 percent. He says individual bills are based on assessments and can still increase - or decrease - by more or less than 2 percent this year.
Furthermore, he emphasized that this 2 percent tax levy cap is theoretical because each district's cap is based on a complex formula provided by New York State that incorporates numbers like the tax base growth factor, PILOT payments, the capital tax levy, an allowable levy growth factor and several exclusions. See pages 11 - 12 of the budget presentation for all of Farmingdale's numbers plugged into the formula.
For Farmingdale, this means that the 2 percent tax levy cap is actually 2.14 percent, making the total allowable number collected in taxes by the district to be $114,695,258. Every district will have a different tax levy cap number.
In the fall, the Farmingdale school board had directed the administration to create two budgets - one that pierces this 2.14 percent cap and would require more than 60 percent of voter approval and one that was at the tax cap. That plan was since scrapped in favor of staying within the cap.
District Costs and Revenue 2012 - 2013
Defendini broke down the current political environment, describing in detail several mandates that add costs to the 2012-2013 budget. These costs include the new teacher evaluation system, the Nassau County sewer tax ($170,000), districts having to take responsibility for tax certioraries when residents grieve their taxes and are owed money (estimated $225,000) and a pre-school special education program mandate ($50,000).
A way the district was able to control costs was a multi-year contract negotiated with the teachers union earlier this year that involves a zero percent salary increase for this year with no back-end increases.
"The teachers really stepped up to the plate," Defendini said. Certain contracts are still are being negotiated including clerical/custodial, teacher aids/school monitors, administrators and the nurses.
Other cost increases include a $2,174,714 increase in mandated employee benefits, a $114,994 increase in debt services and a $113,048 increase in utilities.
In terms of revenue, the district is receiving $25,247,558 in state aid between foundation and high tax aid, reimbursement and expense driven aid and catergorical and grant aid. According to Defendini, each category of aid has been impacted by the economic times and has been reduced in some way, although the district is receiving approximately $320,000 more in aid than last year.
Residents are encouraged to participate in the 2012-2013 budget workshops taking place on Wednesday nights throughout March, all at 8 p.m. in the
Last week's meeting focused on this year's political climate. The next workshop on March 21 will focus on the district's capital projects, facilities and the maintained program. The March 28 meeting will focus on long-term planning and financial projections. The board will adopt a district budget on April 3, a BOCES budget on April 17 and there will be one final public hearing on May 8 before the vote on May 15.
The administration will also be doing budget presentations at PTA meetings, other community group meetings and the budget/a video presentation of it will be posted on the district website.