The Huntington school board adopted a $109 million budget Monday night after several weeks of debate over how much more taxpayers were willing to pay or accept in cuts.
The budget for 2011-12, hammered by state aid cuts and rising costs, represents a 3.15 percent tax rate increase, and a .23 increase over this year's budget.
Trustees voted, 6-1, with Elizabeth Black the only one to oppose it. Though during discussion, the votes of other trustees seemed to hinge on the restoration of various elements of the budget, or the extent of the tax increase, Black had said that several aspects of the budget disturbed her and she would not vote for the budget regardless of the tax rate.
Among other things, she cited disparities in the level of cuts affecting different schools.
Gone from the budget, despite pleas from parents over the last several meetings, is . The board had previously decided to limit funding for the band, with the band parents' organization already raising funds to close the gap.
Pulled back from the chopping block were eight kindergarten aides, the Saturday Academy, which is designed to help students to achieve proficiency on state tests, netbooks and one psychologist's job. Saturday Academy had been restored last week, then was targeted again for cost savings during Monday's meeting, only to make it back into the budget again before the evening was over.
Staff layoffs increased from 102.6 to 105.4. The budget total is $109,037,301.
School board president Bill Dwyer again emphasized the difficulty of reaching an acceptable budget this year, because of state aid cuts and mandates. He also said the board had made the teachers' union "an offer to save a substantial number of positions but to date the unit has not accepted the offer. We would love to put some positions back but we cannot."
The evening started with a real decline of $129,238 in the projected budget from the current, but quickly rose as trustees debated the willingness of taxpayers to pay higher rates or the value of various programs that had seemed slated for elimination.
At one point, Dwyer surveyed board members on what rate increases they would support, and responses ranged from under 3 percent for Richard McGrath and Dwyer, to 3.5 percent for Christine Bene and Emily Rogan. The conversation soon turned ot which programs most needed to be rescued.
Several parents spoke once more of the need to save full-day kindergarten or at least the need to learn which session their children would attend. Others upbraided the board about what they saw as waste or the need to cut administrative staff.
The budget will be come before voters May 17.