South Country Central School District Board Notes – May 8 Budget Hearing

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The May 8 Board of Education meeting and Budget Hearing commenced with a moment of silence for those killed and wounded in the May 5 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado. 

Prior to the budget hearing, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani introduced the candidates for the trustee election on May 21 including Melissa Aruta, James Ford, E. Anne Hayes, Karen Johnson, Clyde Parker, Shawn K. Patrick-Reese, Christine Rignola and Cameron Trent. Board of Education President Cheryl A. Felice congratulated the candidates for “stepping up,” and noted that the job of board trustee is rewarding.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Management Services Dr. Sam Gergis then presented the community with a hearing of the district’s proposed three-part budget, including its components in the areas of administration, capital and programs. He explained that the proposed spending plan, totaling $134,600,063, enhances and supports the district’s quality educational programs while remaining at the allowable 3.6% tax levy limit. The spending plan is a budget-to-budget increase of $2.4 million over the previous year, is a spending increase of 1.8478 %, and will cost the average homeowner $148.94 more per year. 

There are two additional propositions on the ballot. The Capital Reserve Expenditure Proposition seeks the authorization to expend $2.3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for facility upgrades. In addition, the Liquidation of Property Loss Reserve Fund Proposition asks voters to decide whether to liquidate the district’s Property Loss Reserve Fund in the amount of $490,451 and to transfer this money to the General Fund to be utilized for legal purposes. There are also four board trustee seats to be filled. The three candidates receiving the highest number of votes will fill the terms commencing July 1, 2019 and expiring on June 30, 2022. The candidate receiving the fourth highest number of votes will fill the term commencing May 22, 2019 and expiring on June 30, 2021.  

Dr. Gergis also explained that if the budget fails on May 21, the district has the option to put the same proposed spending plan or a revised budget up for a revote on June 18 or to adopt a contingency budget. If the proposed budget is defeated twice, the district must adopt a contingency budget that does not increase the current tax levy by any amount, imposing a 0 percent tax cap.

Board Vice President Jack Nix said he is excited that the proposed budget includes busing for the district’s pre-kindergarten program, which will be housed in the new South Haven Early Childhood Center this coming fall. Trustee Lisa DiSanto also remarked that the budget experience was the most pleasant experience since seated on the board. She also noted that the district’s proposed spending plan is one of the most fiscally sound budgets being proposed in the area and one that provides students with opportunities that other districts cannot provide. 

Ms. Felice thanked Dr. Giani for including the requests of the Board of Education in the budget and said she looks forward to a successful new year. She reminded the community that voting for the 2019-2020 budget, accompanying propositions and election of trustees take place on Tuesday, May 21, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., at Bellport Middle School. She also urged the community to make an informed vote by reading the district’s budget presentations and online newsletter (English and Spanish translations available). Hard copies will be available at the District Office, local libraries, the Boys and Girls Club and on request. Absentee ballots can also be obtained at the District Office or by calling the district clerk at 631-730-1542.