School budget meetings set to start in January

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Dr. Michael Hynes will start budget presentations on Jan. 13 as he and the Board of Education begin crafting the school district’s 2014-15 budget.

It may seem like just yesterday that voters approved the current school year’s budget, but beginning in January, the Shelter Island Board of Education has announced it will begin meetings in January necessary to crafting the district’s 2014-15 budget.

Most of the sessions will coincide with dates of regular scheduled monthly board meetings, but start at 6:30 p.m. with the regular board meetings to commence at 7 p.m.

The initial budget presentation will be on January 13 with follow up sessions on February 10, March 17 and April 1. The April budget meeting won’t be followed by a regular board meeting.

Additional budget sessions could be added if needed, according to Superintendent Michael Hynes.

The district will calculate its tax levy limit — the amount that it could spend without piercing the state 2 percent cap  — by February 28. While 2 percent is the cap the state has set, it’s something of a moving target since it’s affected by previous budgets in the two years since the cap was imposed. For most districts, that means the levy would have to go up less than 2 percent to stay within the cap for the 2014-1 school year.

Since that 2 percent cap was imposed by the state two years ago, the district has taken money from its fund balance — money not used in previous years, but kept to cover emergencies. But Dr. Hynes warned the Board of Education in the last budget cycle that eventually — and that eventuality could be for the 2014-15 school year — it might be prudent to pierce the cap rather than totally deplete the fund balance.

While Dr. Hynes will be outlining budget plans in the scheduled meetings, the board will be tweaking that budget and making final decisions about spending that will be submitted to voters for their consideration on May 20, 2014.

Anyone wishing to seek election to the Board of Education must file a petition by 5 p.m. on April 21. There are three seats that will be up for a vote. They’re currently held by Elizabeth Melichar, Linda Eklund and Alfred Brigham Sr. It’s too early to determine whether either or both will seek re-election. Last May, there were two seats up, but only one incumbent sought re-election. The second, Thomas Graffagnino, had planned to retire from the board but was re-elected in a write-in vote.