Smithtown set to adopt $215M school budget

An undated photo of the exterior view of

An undated photo of the exterior view of the Nesconset Elementary School in the Smithtown School District on Gibbs Pond Road in Nesconset. (Credit: Tony Jerome)

The settlement of a teachers contract, increased state aid and the decision to close a school will allow the Smithtown school district to avoid exceeding the state tax cap, district officials said Monday.

The school board Tuesday will vote on adopting a $215.3 million budget that would carry a 2.2 percent tax increase if it is approved by voters on May 15. The board meets at 8 p.m. at district offices, 26 New York Ave., Smithtown.

State law caps tax levy increases at 2 percent but allows exceptions for expenses such as pensions, debt and legal settlements. Those exceptions boost Smithtown's cap to 2.2 percent, Superintendent Edward Ehmann said.

The proposed budget is a 1.4 percent increase over the current $212.3 million budget.

Closing Nesconset Elementary School in June is expected to save the district about $1 million annually, district officials have said. The district plans to lay off six teachers due to the school closing and six more due to declining enrollment, Ehmann said. The equivalent of five full-time positions will be lost because music lessons will be reduced from once a week to twice a month, he said.

Those cuts and others will allow the district to avoid increasing class sizes next year, said school board president Gladys Waldron, adding she supports the budget proposal.

"You don't want to make any cuts, but I believe they are cuts we can live with," she said.

The school board last week approved a five-year teachers contract that includes an estimated $500,000 worth of concessions next year.

"That helped significantly," Ehmann said. "This settlement sets the district up well, not only for next year but the future as well."

Smithtown officials expect a $3.1 million state aid increase. State aid was reduced $5.4 million last year, when voters approved a 4.9 percent tax hike.

Ehmann said the district's future debt will be reduced because state lawmakers have approved a bill to restore $10 million in construction aid that Smithtown had lost due to paperwork errors.

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