$10.5 million school budget stays within tax cap

JULIE LANE PHOTO Superintendent Michael Hynes outlined budget plans Monday night before the Board of Education.
Superintendent Michael Hynes outlined budget plans Monday night before the Board of Education.

With only the video recording operator and the press present Monday night, Superintendent Michael Hynes pressed ahead with a final formal budget hearing.

The Board of Education will go to the voters with a $10.47 million spending plan for 2014-15. Dr. Hynes noted that the proposal raises the tax levy 1.7 percent, staying within the state-imposed tax cap.

That’s something neither the town nor the library could achieve, he said.

At the same time, the budget that would hike spending by $425,064 or 4.23 percent more than the current plan, exceeds the goals the administration and Board of Education set at the outset of their workshops in January. The aim was to keep within the tax levy cap while maintaining current programs and expanding both programs and staff.

Among the new initiatives is a morning pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds. But the program will serve only six or seven students, while Dr. Hynes said he anticipates about 25 from the community would be eligible. That means a lottery will have to be organized to determine which students can attend the classes that are designed for social and emotional growth of the children as well as for their academic achievements.

To accommodate an increased Latino population on the Island, there will be an expansion of the English as a Second Language program. And the combined kindergarten-first grade class is being abandoned next fall because the class size would be too large.

A new dean would assume responsibilities for some administrative work as well as overseeing the district’s sports and gym programs.

While the BOE is optimistic about gaining community support for the budget, if it were to fail in two successive votes, district officials would be faced with cutting $155,063 from its spending plans. There are certain budget cuts the state would require in areas of capital equipment, materials and supplies and programs, Dr. Hynes said. But he’s not ready to speculate about specific cuts.

Voters will also be electing Board of Education members. Three incumbents — Linda Eklund, Elizabeth Melichar-Lechmanski and Alfred Brigham.

Voting takes place in the school gymnasium Tuesday between noon and 9 p.m.

Results will be posted on the Reporter website that night as soon as they become available.