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Mineola School Board Adopts 2012-13 Budget

No cuts to programs, some initiatives expanded in tax-capped budget.

Students in the Mineola School District will not see any cuts to programs in the 2012-13 school year; they may even some expansion of them in certain grades.

All these initiatives and more have been squeezed out of a $83,992,180 budget for next year, which also amounts to a of .27 percent and also .

The levy for 2012-13 is $76,242,180, a 1.93 percent increase over last year, or $1,443,803, which is . Many school districts’ levy numbers are over 3 percent since the are using property values from 2008-09.

“We know that in 2 years when they’re using the current numbers, the levies are going to be smaller,” superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said during his budget presentation at the April 17 meeting at the . “You’re not going to be seeing numbers over two. We know for example that next year our number will be below 2 percent again because we’re losing $600,000 in debt and the following year we know that growth factor is going to reduce again.”

In Mineola the and the tax levy for 2011-12 was $74,798,377.

Even with reapportionment, state aid to Mineola is still about $2,500 less than last year. The district also lost $200,000 in federal job grant funding last year. On the books it reflects a decrease of $189,256 year-to-year.

Other revenue into the district totals $1,283,220, an increase of $53,220 and includes rent from the but not from Willis Avenue as the district is still .

“It would be premature,” Dr. Nagler said. “Whatever revenue we make will just be a bonus into next year’s budget.”

The budget includes no cuts to programs or activities, maintains staff development and professional development and continue expansion of the technology initiative including , as well as enhance curriculum such as the .

One of the programs – “Kid Knowledge” – is to give students in pre-K through second grade a hands on program teaching science concepts and terms. A new science lab will also be built at for third and fourth graders to use on a rotating basis in a schedule similar to art and music with the same premise in fifth and sixth grade as a twice-a-week class. The seventh grade model follows the – an alternate day schedule with a double period of science for “hands on” experiments - a requirement for any Regents credit.

A total of three full-time staff reductions are included in the budget but equate to the amount being spent on the new science curriculum.

“We’re investing back into the program and this year it equals people,” Dr. Nagler said.

Of the three, one is an excess, one is a nurse and one is a retiree. The teacher contract requires the superintendent to notify teachers by April 1 that they may be excessed. Dr. Nagler notified 10 teachers as a “precaution” so if the budget were not to pass “and I have to make up $1.4 million... and so there are a lot of letters out there but that does not mean that all of those teachers will be excessed.”

Reductions of two full-time administrators and three full-time custodians/ maintainers also are included. If not for the science programs, six full-time teaching positions would have been eliminated.

The budget number also includes the $600,000 to the fund balance for the and the .

“This is a planning thing,” Dr. Nagler said. “This is if you want to do work; we’re designating two projects with that money to complete: the Meadow Library is a portion of it and to have money set aside for a bus loop.”

No number was dedicated to either project but the superintendent said that the lump sum would cover both projects.

“If you don’t decide to do the project the money just goes back to where it came from,” he said, noting the board still has to allocate the money for the project and go out for bid. “There are other steps that have to take place. We’re more constrained in this levy cap. If you don’t put money aside for capital work, if you try to do it in the levy, you’re penalized for it.”

The superintendent added that he would be recommending that the district begin funding its reserves – particularly capital – saying it’s more cost effective to have a “lump sum” for a large project such as one which totals over $1 million.

Mineola will also be replacing 2 large buses (using 5-year leases on the vehicles) and three vans as well as a new mail truck in the guise of a pickup truck with a cap. The district did not replace any vehicles last year.

The total 2012-13 equipment budget is $217,000 and includes new furniture for music and art rooms at Hampton, which was not included in except for the fact that the district had a “very aggressive bid” for the library furniture.

The equipment amount also covers phase two of the . Phase one involves taking down walls and reflooring and will be done once school lets out. The entire project will be finished for a September 1 opening. There is also a new state mandate for calculators for grades six through eight.

The (AGP) is in the budget and the district will look to change entrance requirements in third grade as well as the technology requirement for seventh grade. The current technology requirement is woodshop, but the district is looking to test class based on robotics and expand it to the whole school the next year.

“If we’re able to somehow parlay the iPad to do design work for robotics, it’s a natural fit,” Dr. Nagler said. “I think you’ll see it’s an even easier fit in music and in art to use the device.”

Universal Pre-K is in the budget but poses “a bit of a problem” next year because there are three classes and a lottery is held. Until the district knows where the children are coming from, it is difficult to know in which building the program will be held. The superintendent also hinted that he might recommend the program be outsourced like the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park and Herricks school districts. The program could also stay in Willis and might be run by Harbor Day Care if a lease is agreed upon for the building.

“As we roll out the lease and if the legal case gets settled in time and we hold the lottery and we know where kids are located, we’ll have better answers,” he said. Mineola receives universal pre-K funding for 54 students.

Dr. Nagler did not yet have a from the closing of Cross Street at the meeting from the finance committee, stating that it would “be easier” to calculate the savings at the time and would ask the committee to give a presentation after the annual audit.

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