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Spending Set to Fall in First Draft of 2012-13 Mineola School Budget

No cuts in positions or programs in first draft of $83.34 million budget.

While spending is projected to fall in the Mineola School District’s 2012-13 school year, the levy will be going up, but will still , according to school administrators who unveiled the first draft of next year’s budget at the during the March 1 meeting of the .

“Basically we’re working off of the 2 percent or less increase in the levy year-to-year,” Mineola Assistant Superintendent of Finance Jack Waters said, referencing a presentation given on February 16 on the when all exemptions are taken into account.

The tax levy cap changes the district’s budgeting process because whereas previously the district used to look to implement new programs, now “we’re now working off of a system where we have a finite increase in how much the levy can go up each year,” Waters said.

The overall , with a tax levy (what the district will ask the community to contribute) of $74,798,378. Using the new  state guidelines, Mineola can only raise its levy by 1.93 percent, or $1,443,803, bringing it to $76.2 million.

The first draft of the 2012-13 school budget is $83,342,180, an increase of $1,745,753, or 2.15 percent, with the total tax levy going from $74,798,377 to $76,242,180, an increase of $1.44 million, or 1.93 percent. Waters pointed out that this draft was still a lower operating budget than 2011-12 by a little over $879,000, or 1.04 percent.

Waters accounted for the decrease primarily due to two transfers to the district’s capital lines from the reserve funds totaling $2.6 million dollars for the projects and the , the latter of which accounted for $2.1 million of the sum. He stated that the balance was replenished when the district closed the fiscal books on the 2010-11 school year.

Taking out the $2.6 million left an adjusted operating budget of $81,596,427, which when coupled with the allowable increase of $1.7 million, totaled the $83.34 million operating budget for 2012-13.

In 2012-13, state aid to Mineola ($4,970,000) and other income ($2,130,000) will add up to $7.1 million. “Anything outside of this now we would have to look for some other means of financing,” Waters said, pointing to the fund balance as the most likely. “So if the decision is made that there are projects, a project that would fall under the transfer to capital account this year, we will probably look to fund it the same way as we did last year by using appropriated fund balance as we did last year.”

While revenues are “pretty much the same,” according to Waters, he reflected decreases of $100,000 in lines for state aid and “other revenue” which he said “had a lot to do with roundings.”

Mineola does have an in the draft of the governor’s proposed executive budget, which was obtained on .

There will be no staff excesses other than retirees are in the first budget draft and all current programs are included in the budget for next year. One retired teacher’s salary was taken out as well as two administrators who are retiring. Waters stated that the district has exceeded about 25-27 people over the past 2 years.

“There will be further reductions reflected in salaries in clericals, teachers and leave,” he said, estimating a net seven or eight reductions going into next year.

“If you look at the benefits number, they jump from 2 years ago to this current year is over 3 million and you notice the salary number has decreased and that’s a result of closing schools and reducing staff and not having as many people work for us while the benefits are still increasing at a sharp rate,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said. “Had we not done that the salary number would have moved as quickly as the benefit number.”

Salaries are set to increase $500,000 in 2012-13, a 1.05 percent hike, while benefits, which include teacher and employee retirement contributions and health costs, will be upped by $900,000 or 4.8 percent. The district is required to budget for any employee receiving a step increase next year. 

“At this time last year they were projecting a tremendous increase in the premium costs for the calendar year and we were fortunate that instead of a projected 18 or 19 percent increase in health costs, it only went up three, 3.5 percent,” Waters said. “I think (Dr. Nagler) and I are going to look at some of the numbers and see if we’re comfortable enough to maintain just a 3.4 percent increase for the entire budget year 12-13 or we may decide to increase that slightly.”

Waters projected that the district would have a budget surplus “slightly more” than 1 million at the end of the year.

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