Manhasset, Baldwin hold school budget hearings

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School officials in Manhasset and Baldwin Tuesday night put forward more modest proposed budgets than those that voters rejected last month -- though Manhasset's plan still pierces the district's tax-cap limit, while Baldwin's meets its cap.

At budget hearings in each district, educators and parents spoke of harsh realities that the revised spending plans will mean in the 2013-14 school year.

"Baldwin is known for its arts and music and athletics, and this is very painful," Superintendent James Mapes said at that district's hearing, which was attended by about 20 people.

In Manhasset, the school board devised a 2013-14 budget that would mean a 1.97 percent tax-levy increase -- above the district's state-imposed cap of 0.15 percent. Because the tax-levy hike is above the cap, the budget must be approved by 60 percent of voters next week.

In May, voters rejected an $89,296,198 budget, which would have meant a 5.98 percent tax-levy hike. It garnered 53.3 percent of the necessary 60 percent approval. The new proposal, which the school board has adopted and on which voters will decide Tuesday, is $86,176,419, a drop of $3.1 million. It is $900,000 less than the current 2012-13 budget. Officials said the budget would mean an estimated $265 annual property tax hike for the average home assessed at $1.035 million.

If the proposal does not get 60 percent of the votes, the tax levy will drop to zero, sparking cuts, administrators have said.

Superintendent Charles Cardillo explained that officials scrambled to make cuts that preserved class size and academic integrity while maintaining sports and recreation programs. "Hopefully, people view that as appealing," he said of the budget.

In Baldwin, voters next week will be asked to approve a budget that would hike the tax levy 3.14 percent, which is equal to the district's tax cap. Last month, district voters rejected a budget with a 7 percent tax-levy hike. The revised plan of $119,031,449 will require approval by 50 percent of those voting. It is a cut of 0.38 percent from last year's budget of $119,483,487.

It requires trims to a number of activities including middle school sports and musicals and high school musicals, officials said at the hearing. The new budget preserves full-day kindergarten, keeps classroom instruction for art and music as well as maintains current class sizes.

If Baldwin's budget is rejected a second time, the district must cut $2.7 million. The austerity budget, with a zero percent increase, would eliminate kindergarten and athletics, increase class sizes and reduce or eliminate courses and electives.

Resident Susan Green said an austerity budget would be a disaster. "This budget really needs to pass," she told the board last night. "There is no other option."

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