Shelter Island Board of Education to take another pass at cuts

JULIE LANE PHOTO |  Shelter Island  School District Business Manager Tim Laube.

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Shelter Island School District Business Manager Tim Laube.

The Shelter Island Board of Education has another week before it adopts a budget proposal to submit to voters in May. Members have reduced a $11.08 million proposal to $11.02 million and have set a goal to find more cuts.

Presently, the board is looking at a 6.25 percent difference between the current tax levy and the projected levy for 2016-17. Were it not for a bond approved in 2014 on which the School District is obligated to begin paying debt service in the next fiscal year, the difference would be 4.35 percent, district Business Manager Tim Laube said.

What that means to taxpayers is an anticipated increase of about $19 per $100,000 of their property assessment. That is subject to change if assessors make changes to the tax roll for the next year, Mr. Laube said.

The board received a petition bearing 232 signatures of residents asking that the drivers education program be retained. Mr. Graffagnino said he never wanted to see that program cut. Efforts would be made to lower costs of the program, he added, but parents and students should expect drivers education to continue.

The district will offer a full-day program for 4-year-old preschoolers in September, Academic Administrator Jennifer Rylott said. To do so will cost the district about $20,000 more than that it spent this year to run a half-day program for 4-year-olds combined with the kindergarten class.

That’s because the combined class included one teacher and one teacher’s assistant. The new program will drop the teacher’s assistant and hire a full-time teacher for the preschool program.

One area of major spending expected to receive close scrutiny is the projected cost of medical insurance for the district’s retirees.

For the current year, the figure was budgeted at $780,631, but it’s expected to rise to $848,000. Part of the increase results from the addition of four employees who are retiring at the end of this school year, bringing the total number of retirees to 44.

Board Vice President Linda Eklund said that with many employees on Medicare at the time of their retirement, the district would appear to be paying about $600 a month for supplemental plans, much more than most seniors pay for similar coverage.

Mr. Laube said his team will closely examine that figure to determine if there are ways to cut spending while meeting contractual obligations to retirees.

There may also be some cuts in bus transportation. Sunrise Coach Lines is looking to place a vehicle on the Island instead of having the driver start a run in the morning empty coming over from Greenport, according to Todd Gulluscio, director of district operations.

But efforts to reduce ferry fares for school buses have not, so far, been effective, Mr. Gulluscio said.

Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik characterized the budget at this point as “educationally sound” and “fiscally conservative.”

After a brief executive session, the board opted to televise both the April 18 budget workshop and the April 20 session when the board is scheduled to adopt its budget proposal.

Meetings begin in the boardroom at 6 p.m.