Lindenhurst schools set budget

Lindenhurst Middle School is part of the Lindenhurst Lindenhurst Middle School is part of the Lindenhurst Union Free School District and serves grades 6-8. (June 7, 2011) Photo Credit: Alexi Knock

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Coming off one of the highest tax levy increases on Long Island last year, the Lindenhurst Union Free School District has adopted a budget that board members say is fair.

The $141.7 million budget will require taking nearly $489,000 from reserves and increasing the tax levy 2.45 percent. That comes out to $239 per home with an average assessed value of $5,000, said Superintendent Richard Nathan.

"I didn't want to support anything over 2 percent," said board member Raymond Doran. "But I think it's a fair and equitable amount for the community."

The board approved the budget after wrangling over cuts and discussions on how much of a tax increase the community would accept. Last year, voters narrowly approved a 6.89 percent increase. Lindenhurst, like many districts across Long Island, has struggled with the state's new 2 percent property tax cap. They've also wrestled with educating the community on exemptions which allow districts to exceed the 2 percent.

Lindenhurst was allowed to increase taxes by 3.57 percent, a number the board reached with the help of a slight uptick in state aid and after eliminating or altering more than a dozen programs and cutting 16 teaching positions.

Wanting to bring it lower, on Wednesday night the board cut more than $400,000 from areas such as transportation and health insurance. Eliminating full-day kindergarten to save $1.3 million was voted down.

After reaching a 3.01 percent levy increase, many in the audience expressed doubt the budget would pass when residents vote on May 15. "Psychologically, it's a tough number," said resident Denis Garbo.

The board then spent most of the evening weighing whether to dip into the district's reserve fund, offering up options that ranged from taking nothing out to removing $925,000, before agreeing to take nearly $489,000 from reserves to bring the tax hike down to 2.45 percent. But Jacqueline Scrio, assistant superintendent for business, urged conservation, citing a reserve fund that has dropped from $7.8 million to $4.2 million since 2010.

"Eventually, this district is going to need new roofs on our buildings," she said. "We can't keep thinking we're never going to do another capital project," she said.

Board president Edward Murphy said he is glad they did not have to make the deep programming cuts other districts have faced. "I'm satisfied with the board's resolution and meeting in the middle," he said.

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