Kings Park board OKs $83.6 million school budget

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The Kings Park Board of Education has adopted a budget for the 2014-15 school year that comes with fewer cuts in staffing and programs than anticipated.

The board voted 4-0 Tuesday in favor of the $83.56 million budget, which represents a .83 percent increase over the current budget of $82.87 million.

A 1.71 percent tax levy increase in the adopted budget is just below the state-mandated tax cap. That represents an estimated annual increase of $135.43 for a home with an assessed valuation of $6,000; the annual school tax bill would be $8,031.98, said Kings Park Superintendent Susan Agruso.

The budget cut 10.6 teaching positions, which includes 4.7 positions that will be eliminated due to declining enrollment. An assistant principal position will also be cut. The cost savings from these and other staff reductions totals more than $1.1 million, Agruso said.

Major impacts on the budget included a 7.4 percent increase in contributions to the teacher retirement system, totaling $401,919, and contractual raises for some staff, said Agruso, adding, "We didn't have enough money to cover all of that."

The seventh- and eighth-grade enrichment program, which provides students with extra classroom help, was cut, but full-day kindergarten was preserved, said Marie Goldstein, school board president.

"It's all about striking a balance," she said. "While enrichment is very important, so is full-day kindergarten because nobody can ignore the new standards that are here."

The district also cut about $100,000 of its $1.4 million budget for clubs, sports and activities. Agruso said that was accomplished by consolidating the number of high school sports assistant coaches, eliminating some concerts and reducing the number of science and math clubs, among other things.

"We were able to preserve almost all of the programs in the district," she said. "If we make progress with our negotiations on the teachers' contract, then some of those programs will be restored."

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Employee contracts typically represent more than 78 percent of spending in the annual budget, Agruso said. The last teachers' contract expired in June 2011.

Parent Tricia Dwyer-Johnston, 51, of Fort Salonga, said teachers should make concessions. "We need the teachers to take cuts," she said. "That's the only way we're going to restore things that are being cut."

Chris Philp, president of the Kings Park Classroom Teachers Association, said the union has "been focused on settling the contract that recognized the fiscal reality of our time and one that is fair to the teachers."

Residents can get more information about the budget at a hearing at 8 p.m. May 13 at Kings Park High School. The budget vote is May 20.