05/11/11 11:53pm

Here’s a summary of what voters will find on the school district ballot on Tuesday.

Proposition 1:
2011-2012 School Budget

A “yes” vote will approve a $9,640,614 budget for the 2011-2012 school year, which is a 0.97 percent increase (about $92,635) over the current year’s budget. Details appear in a separate story on page 11. The language on the ballot will read as follows: “Shall the Shelter Island Union Free School District Budget in the amount of $9,640,614 for the fiscal year 2011-2012 be approved as proposed and the requisite portion thereof raised by taxation on the taxable property of the district?”

Proposition 2:
Building Improvement Bond

A “yes” vote will allow the Shelter Island School District to borrow up to $2.237 million through the sale of 20-year bonds in order to pay for building renovations. School Business Leader Sam Schneider described the renovations as “health and safety” items.

Repaying the bonds would cost the district an estimated $3,592,600, or an average of $179,630 a year for 20 years starting with the 2012-2013 school year.

The debt service would require a tax rate of approximately 0.0589 per $1,000 of assessed property value for one year of repayment, according to Town Assessor Al Hammond. A property valued at $500,000 would pay approximately $29.45 for the first year.

The ballot proposition will read as follows: “(a) RESOLVED, That the Board of Education of the Shelter Island Union Free School District, in the County of Suffolk, New York, (the “District”), is hereby authorized to construct various building improvements at the Shelter Island School, and to expend therefor an amount not to exceed $2,237,000; (b) that a tax is hereby voted therefor in the amount of not to exceed $2,237,000 to finance such cost, such tax to be levied and collected in installments in such years and in such amounts as shall be determined by said Board of Education; and (c) that the District is authorized to issue serial bonds to finance all or part of said cost, and a tax is hereby voted to pay the interest on said bonds as the same shall become due and payable.”

Proposition 3:
Emergency Generator Bond

A “yes” vote will allow the Shelter Island School District to borrow up to $600,000 through the sale of 10-year bonds to install a new emergency generator in the school. With the school’s current Korean War-era generator no longer reliable, according to district officials, the building cannot remain an official Red Cross shelter.

The bond would cover $420,000 for a new generator and the labor required to install it and its related wiring; $85,000 to install an emergency battery-powered lighting and backup fire alarm system, as required by New York State Education Department rules; and $95,000 in contingencies and fees.

Repaying the bond would cost the district an estimated $729,938, or an average of about $73,000 a year for 10 years starting with the 2012-2013 school year. District officials expect to finish paying back the bond during the 2021-2022 school year.

The debt service for the bond would require a tax rate of approximately 0.0239 per $1,000 of assessed property value for one year of repayment, according to Town Assessor Al Hammond. A property valued at $500,000 would pay approximately $11.95 for the first year.

The language on the ballot will be as follows: “(a) RESOLVED, That the Board of Education of the Shelter Island Union Free School District, in the County of Suffolk, New York, (the “District”), is hereby authorized to install a new generator and related lighting improvements at the Shelter Island School, and to expend therefor an amount not to exceed $600,000; (b) that a tax is hereby voted therefor in the amount of not to exceed $600,000 to finance such cost, such tax to be levied and collected in installments in such years and in such amounts as shall be determined by said Board of Education; and (c) that the District is authorized to issue serial bonds to finance all or part of said cost, and a tax is hereby voted to pay the interest on said bonds as the same shall become due and payable.”

Proposition 4:
Project FIT Capital Reserve

A “yes” vote would create a Project FIT capital reserve fund, essentially a savings account, according to the district’s business leader, Sam Schneider. The reserve would be funded through Project FIT member fees and any money left after district operational expenses are met.

A “yes” vote will not result in any additional tax levy. Voters must approve the FIT proposal because state law prohibits school districts from building up cash reserves year by year through annual operating budgets.

The money would fund improvements to Project FIT facilities, not including the demolition of the current FIT building addition and its replacement. A number of improvements have been suggested, such as fixing the fencing and some net posts at the tennis courts on Duvall Avenue and the backstops at the ball fields at Fiske Field. Voters would have to approve any specific uses of the money.

The language on the ballot will be as follows: “Shall the Board of Education of the Shelter Island Union Free School District be authorized to establish, pursuant the Education Law section 3651, a Capital Reserve Fund to be known as the “Project F.I.T. Capital Reserve” for the purpose of renovations to the portion of the school building commonly known as the FIT Center (room replacement, window replacement, toilet room renovations, masonry/concrete replacement, door replacement, floor replacement, wall replacement, mirror replacement, office renovation, electrical, plumbing, heating/ventilation renovations, carpentry renovations, security systems, building expansion, the purchase of facilities equipment for proper maintenance, materials for proper maintenance), parking facilities and entranceway renovations. The ultimate amount of the aforesaid Capital Reserve Fund is $10,000,000 plus interest thereon and the probable term is to be 20 years; the funds are to be transferred from surplus monies remaining in the general fund each year as received by the District from the Town of Shelter Island for use in connection with Project F.I.T., that have been designated as originating from Project F.I.T user fees or from other appropriations from the Town of Shelter Island to the School District for Project F.I.T. Additionally, the Board of Education may make a one time transfer of funds are in excess of need, after repairs are made to resolve code issues, from those funds that were appropriated by Board of Education resolution on April 20, 2009.”

05/11/11 11:50pm

Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 17 to decide a range of school district issues: the proposed 2011-12 budget, bond propositions to fund building renovations and a new emergency power generator, and whether or not to create a capital reserve fund for Project FIT. There are also three school board positions to fill.

The Reporter began reviewing each of these choices in the April 28 issue. This week, the topic is the 2011-2012 budget, “Proposition 1” on the ballot.

The school is asking voters to approve a $9,640,614 budget for the 2011-2012 school year, a 0.97 percent increase (about $92,635) over the current year’s budget. That would translate to a projected tax levy of $8,727,224, a 1.45 percent increase or about $125,000 over the current year’s tax levy.

That would result in a tentative tax rate of $2.8474 for each $1,000 of assessed value, according to the Town Assessor’s office. In other words, a person whose property is assessed at $500,000 would pay $1,423.70 in school taxes.

The budget vote is May 17 in the school gymnasium from noon to 9 p.m.

Al Hammond, the chair of the Board of Assessors, said property owners with questions about the effect on their tax bills may call the assessors office at 749-1080.

If voters reject the proposed budget, state law requires that a district adopt a contingency budget. The contingency budget is calculated according to a formula that typically increases the previous year’s budget by a small percentage. Applying that formula, this year’s contingency budget would be higher than the budget proposed by the board, a situation that is not allowed by state law. As a result, the district has had to revert to a contingency budget that removes non-instructional equipment expenses (such as maintenance equipment) and cuts out increases for non-union employees.

The 2011-2012 contingency budget is $9,612,965, about $28,000 less than the proposed budget. This is the third year in a row that the board has proposed a budget so low that the contingency budget had to be calculated this way.

The board arrived at its budget proposal after a series of workshops starting in February. One of the biggest cuts made was the elimination of the librarian, Christine Miller’s position, and the reduction of three teaching positions from full time to 60 percent: those of Business Education teacher Katherine Doroski, Mathematics 7-12 instructor Audrey Pedersen and Family & Consumer Science and Home Economics teacher Roni Siller. That eliminated about $250,000 from the budget.

During Monday night’s public hearing on budget meeting, board President Rebecca Mundy argued that “it supports all of our programmatic needs and doesn’t reduce or eliminate the services to our students … We needed to be as fiscally responsible as possible in this economic climate.”

The district also cut $66,000 in costs for sending students to another district and $16,000 from the Arts and Education program line, which now has less than $4,000 to provide programs such as assemblies that provide cultural experiences.

The district has budgeted about $230,000 to complete modest capital improvements: the installation of a handicapped accessible exterior door in the elementary school, installation of new bleachers in the school gym, refinishing and painting the gym floor, repaving the parking lot and installation of a welding safety hood in the technology classroom. The demolition of the Project FIT space that will take place this spring will be funded through reserves, not new taxes, as will the construction of its replacement.

The $230,000 for capital improvements would be partially offset by the $206,200 that is no longer required  for debt service because school paid off its last installment of a 1991 bond, Mr. Schneider said during a March 14 budget workshop. He said the $230,000 figure was a rough estimate of the average payment over the past 20 years.

The district was facing a tough budget season this year, according to interim Superintendent Robert Parry. During the April 11 budget workshop, he said: “With the increases in health insurance, the increases in the … retirement system contributions and with the step increases already built into the teacher contracts … those factors alone created a tax levy increase of 4.4 or 4.5 percent.”

The district also saw a $34,445 drop in state aid, from $472,835 to $438,390.