Central Islip school board, with a split vote, adopts $192 million budget
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Following a string of heated meetings since winter, the Central Islip school board -- with a split vote -- adopted a $192,496,924 budget for the 2014-15 school year.
The board was divided 4 to 3, enough to pass the fiscal plan that increased spending 2.42 percent over the current year's budget.
By using $7.5 million from the district's reserve funds, the tax rate decreased by 0.83 percent, saving the average homeowner with a $40,000 assessed value $70.12, Kevin Miller, the school's business administrator, said at the Wednesday night meeting.
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School board president Fred Philips, along with board members Daniel Devine, William Softy and Edna Carbajal, voted in favor of the budget.
Board members Doris Dodson, Kelly Valentin and Monique McCray dissented.
Dodson, Valentin and McCray after the meeting cited lack of transparency and budgeting concerns for their "nay" votes.
The district came under fire last month when an audit from the state comptroller concluded that from 2008 to 2013, the district underestimated revenues while it overbudgeted expenditures to help finance the following years' operations, which led to more than $25 million in surplus funds.
Taxes increased 9 percent during that time.
"After the audit, I didn't feel comfortable ," Valentin said. "I went line by line with the original budget and saw all this excess money. I questioned it and I didn't understand why we were continuing on with the same patterns prior to the audit being released."
Craig Carr, the district superintendent, questioned why the board members who voted no didn't speak up during the vote. "What bothers me is not hearing from the naysayers," he said after the meeting.
Taxpayer Beverly Rivera, 63, said the district has created "an issue of credibility and trust."
Rivera, a retired registrar at Stony Brook University, and Nancy Vargas-Johnson, 45, a real estate agent, met in recent weeks with Miller to help reduce the budget by $179,000 by cutting contractual services and the purchase of goods and discretionary funds.
After next year's budget goes into effect, the district will have $7.6 million left in its unrestricted fund reserves, which will be under the comptroller's recommended allowance, Miller said.
Last year, $15 million was placed into an employees' retirement reserve fund and $7.5 million was put toward a voter-approved capital project.
Five new teachers, two social workers and an attendance teacher will be hired with this new budget, Carr said.
Fifteen teachers are retiring at the end of this year, all of whom will be replaced.
No programs, such as athletics or music, have been cut.