School District reveals preliminary staff, administrative costs

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Board of Education President Thomas Graffagnino

The public has had a first look at two parts of a draft budget by the Board of Education to fund the 2019-20 school year without piercing the state-imposed 2 percent tax cap.

Numbers released at budget meetings January 7 and Monday evening are preliminary. They represent just two of four major areas of spending — staff and administration — that total $10.63 million, compared with $10.199 million for the current year.

On Monday, January 28, District Business Leader Linda Haas will outline the initial proposal for capital expenses related to school facilities. On February 11, she will present the initial proposal for spending on educational programs.

Ms. Haas said salaries for the next school year at this point would appear to raise costs by 3.71 percent and benefits could increase by 6.07 percent. The preliminary costs for administration would rise by 2.56 percent. But many factors could change those preliminary numbers.

If a teacher, for example, with years of experience, retired or left the district and was replaced by an entry level teacher, that would lower salary costs. Or, if more special education services were needed, particularly services that had to be offered off-campus, that could raise costs.

When it comes to benefits, district officials don’t know how much health insurance will rise.

Numbers plugged into the current proposal are based on past years with projected increases until actual figures become available, Ms. Haas said.

Currently, salaries show an increase of $215,084, going from $5.546 million in the current school year to $5.8 million next year.

Benefits would cost $187,657 more next year than the district currently pays, if projected numbers hold. That means they would go from $3.09 million this year to $3.28 million next year and include payments to employee and teacher retirement systems, Social Security and Medicare and health insurance premiums.

The cost of administration, which includes salaries, contractual agreements, travel and conference expenses, materials and supplies and Eastern Suffolk BOCES payments could go up by $33,452 for the next school year — a change from $1.3 million in the current year to $1.34 million next year.

Before taxpayers begin to project what the actual proposed budget will look like when they go to the polls in May, it’s important to see these early numbers as “a work in progress,” said Board of Education President Thomas Graffagnino.

The Board of Education will hold a March 4 workshop to begin examining places for possible cuts to stay within the tax cap.

Taxpayers should know that cuts can’t be made to state or federally mandated expenses or to contractual items, including already negotiated salaries and benefits. That means about 85 percent of the school budget is locked in and can’t be changed by the Board of Education.

On March 11, the Board is expected to provide an overview of a budget proposal and hear from the public about suggested changes.

If it’s needed, another budget workshop would be on March 25 to make revisions before the Board of Education adopts a proposal to present to voters in May.

All workshops and hearings are set for 6 p.m. in the board’s conference room.