A petition from parents seeking transportation to Our Lady of the Hamptons School forces a serious fiscal challenge to the Shelter Island School District struggling to keep taxes within the state-imposed rate cap.
Because the school is beyond the district’s required 15-mile radius for busing and class hours differ from those at Ross and Hayground schools where transportation is already provided, a separate bus would be needed to serve the parochial school.
The cost of the bus and South Ferry fare is $70,000, a significant chunk out of preliminary budget plan of $11.3 million,
Whenever a school district is forced to take on extra expenses for students outside the district, whether its transportation, tuition or other costs, it comes out of the overall budget.
The end result is the amount of money that goes for such expenses must either be replaced by more tax revenues, assignment of money from the fund balance or cuts in programs at the Shelter Island School.
Collecting more in taxes could force the Board of Education to go above the state-mandated tax rate cap, which requires a 60 percent approval of the budget by the voters, instead of 50 percent.
Having survived piercing the cap for the current school year by garnering just two more votes than were needed, the administration and Board of Education are understandably nervous about going to the voters on the issue for a second successive year.
If the budget fails, the district can submit the same or a different budget to a second vote. If it fails again, the state puts the district on a contingency budget, dictating what can and can’t be spent.
To borrow from the fund balance is a short-term solution since that unassigned money is maintained to meet emergency expenses, and must eventually be replenished. That amounts to just postponing the needed budget increase.
Cutting programs on the campus is a bitter pill for students, teachers and parents to swallow, but could become the only solution.