Center Moriches board to lower tax request

President of the Center Moriches school board, Joseph

President of the Center Moriches school board, Joseph McHeffey (center) takes a question from resident David Haney who would not vote for the 2.95 cap, during a meeting of the school board, the day after the school budget elections. (May 16, 2012) (Credit: Photo by John Roca)

Center Moriches' school district will lower its tax request and stay within the state's tax-cap limit when it holds a budget revote next month, the board's president announced Wednesday night.

Board President Joseph McHeffey said the district's revised tax plan would come in either at or below the 2.95 percent state capped increase when the board adopts a final budget proposal on June 6. He added that the district was trying to negotiate lower contracts with employee unions that would help limit cuts in student services.

"Hopefully, we'll have some good news for the community on that front in two weeks," McHeffey said. No further budget details will be released until then.

Last week, Center Moriches' $39.4 million budget was rejected by a vote of 719 to 1,145. That plan would have boosted spending 7.4 percent and taxes 4.56 percent, which would have exceeded the cap.

Center Moriches is one of seven Long Island districts that tried, but failed, to override tax caps in last week's balloting.

District officials acknowledge they face a challenge in obtaining a majority vote on a revamped budget after last week's rebuff. Another "no" vote would result in a tax freeze in the coming 2012-13 school year.

One frequent critic of district spending policies, Kelly Platt, who attended the meeting, said that McHeffey's announcement of a potential curb on taxes was a step in the right direction, but possibly came too late.

"The board should have proposed the budget with a low tax cap in the first place," said Platt, 45, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board last week.

One cost that the district faces next year unless it is lowered through negotiations is the 3.25 percent raise for teachers, along with "steps" built into their salary schedule averaging another 2.3 percent.

Mike Koscinski, a teacher's union liaison who attended the board meeting, said he would have no immediate comment on McHeffey's announcement.

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