Seaford district’s school budget slated to rise

Property tax levy may increase by 2.98 percent

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Budget season was in full swing as the Seaford School District presented preliminary budget figures at a Board of Education meeting on Feb. 27 that included a possible boost in the property tax levy by as much as 2.98 percent, or roughly $2.09 million. Officials cautioned, however, that the increase might well be less when final figures are presented later this spring.

The district is proposing roughly $53.6 million from the property tax levy, according to a presentation by Marie Donnelly, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and operations.

The portion of the budget funded by state grants was not included in the presentation. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed executive budget released in January, the district is in line to receive roughly $13.65 million from the state — an increase of nearly $500,000 year-over-year. The bulk of the increase is to reimburse the district for such strategically budgeted services as BOCES programs, Pecora said. The district’s foundation aid — the main vehicle for distributing state school aid — will only increase by $19,000. “Our foundation aid is almost flat,” she said.The district’s goal for its spending plan includes four points, according to the presentation: to create a balanced budget that adds to and supports the district’s existing programs; to maintain student services and programs, while staying within the 2 percent allowable cap on the tax levy increase; to fund reserves and maintain low fiscal stress to continue to positively develop the district’s financial condition; and to keep the district’s finances transparent. Donnelly said in her presentation that the district plans to maintain financial transparency through: financial statements and treasurer’s reports; an independent auditor’s annual public report; various budget documents; posting such budgetary information on the district’s website; and public budget development discussions. 

The district plans to enhance the following preliminary budget programs for the 2019-20 school year: expand A.P. Capstone; continue the Teachers College ELA program; continue the Personalized Digital Learning Initiative; advance the Science Research program advancement; enhance aspects of Special Education and PPS programs; enhance district security aspects; add a new sixth grade math curriculum; expand opportunities for eighth grade science; add sports and clubs; enhance the Elementary Enrichment program; add professional development for teachers; and enhance the water filtration system and new ceilings at Seaford Manor and Seaford Harbor.

Following the affirmative vote on last year’s budget proposition, the district is continuing to weigh the option of rolling over any budget surplus up to $2 million per year into the reserve fund. The district is authorized to continue the rollover for a 10-year period, according to the terms of the proposition, in order to fiund capital projects in the district. “So, over a 10 year period of time we could accrue $20 million,” Superintendent Dr. Adele Pecora said.

The governor’s proposed budget included a roughly $397,000 increase over the year-ago period for BOCES programs. “That is a direct result of the spending we did with BOCES.” Donnelly said. “The increase really is the district’s credit for spending strategically [and] doing purchases with BOCES, knowing that at the end that we get aid on it.”

The State Legislature is required to approve a budget by no later than March 31, when local districts will learn how much they stand to receive.

Between December 2018 and January 2019, the administrators from the respective schools presented the preliminary budget to their central office for review. The tax cap calculation was due on March 1 and the board of education will continue to review the preliminary budget until it is presented to the board for adoption or rejection. The hearing on the spending plan will be held on May 8 and the budget vote and trustee election will be on May 21.