Following a diligent review of the Shelter Island School District budget proposal, the Board of Education has endorsed a spending plan for the 2016-17 school year of $10.97 million that would cost taxpayers an additional $17.24 per $100,000 of assessed valuation.
There are those, no doubt, who fault the district for putting forth a budget that would pierce the state-imposed tax levy cap, but we believe there was no choice. Taxpayers need to know that with state and federal mandates and contractual agreements, the Board of Education has actual control of only 10 to 15 percent of its budget.
To have closed a gap that would have enabled the district to stay within the state’s mandate, the board would have had to allot its entire fund balance — a dangerous practice that would leave no money to meet emergencies.
At a time when financial recovery is still slow for many institutions, we believe the faculty, staff, administrators and school board members have acted responsibly to craft a budget that deserves voter support.
Many people deserve credit for long hours and hard work to keep the district in solid financial shape, including Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik and his staff, who have developed a responsible plan.
District Business Manager Tim Laube reached out to his counterparts in nearby districts for guidance to untangle the intricacies unique to school budgets that differ from his experience working with corporate budgets.
Shelter Island Faculty Association President Brian Becker, who is engaged in contract talks with the district, has several times stated his sensitivity to taxpayers who are still struggling to make ends meet.
Board of Education members have been thorough in their review of the budget proposal with Linda Eklund, an astute businesswoman, often leading the way, crunching numbers to ensure nothing would be allocated that wasn’t critical to student needs.
The only disingenuous player in the game has been New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, who put the tax levy cap idea on the table at the same time the state continued to add unfunded mandates to school districts and municipalities under the guise of lowering taxes.
Because the budget pierces that tax cap, Shelter Island needs not just a majority, but 60 percent approval from voters to enact the budget.
Last May, 80 percent of Islanders gave the budget resounding approval. This budget deserves nothing less.