The Northport-East Northport Board of Education began budget talks with a somber illustration of unprecedented challenges presented by increasing state mandates.
According to Superintendent Marylou McDermott's preliminary 2013-2014 budget presentation on Monday, the district would have to cut spending by $4.1 million in order to stay within Governor Cuomo's two percent tax cap. By comparison, a 5.10 percent increase would be required for a budget with zero cuts.
McDermott presented a $160.4 million preliminary budget with a 5.10 percent tax levy increase at the meeting, emphasizing that it is in its very preliminary stages because final figures from the town and state will not be available until the spring. The budget reflects a 4.21 percent total increase from last year's $153.9 million budget.
McDermott explained that the school district budget has been under the two percent tax levy cap for the past four years-- last year coming in at a 1.39 percent increase-- but now faces additional expenses as a result of increasing state mandates.
Employee salaries and benefits now comprise between 75 and 80 percent of the overall budget, said McDermott. State-mandated district contributions to Health insurance, ERS (Employee Retirement System), and TRS (Teacher Retirement System), have all jumped this year, with TRS costs alone increasing by over 41 percent.
McDermott emphasized that the district is not currently aware of what the allowable tax levy is. She added that the LIPA tax certiori and meeting the two percent tax cap with increasing mandated expenses would present additional challenges in the future.
The next budget meeting will be on Jan. 28 wherein the BOE members will give direction on the preliminary budget. The full budget presentation and schedule of meetings can be found on the district's website.