The New Hyde Park- Garden City Park School Board unanimously approved a budget Tuesday of $34,494,380 for 2012-13, representing a 2.88 percent increase over the current $33,527,125 budget.
If approved by voters on May 15, the 2012-13 budget would result in a 2.88 percent increase in the tax levy to $28,150,071 from $27,361,847 in the current budget cycle.
That increase is within the parameters of the state-mandated tax cap formula, according to Michael Frank, assistant superintendent of business for the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District, who provided a detailed explanation of the calculations related to the cap.
Frank said the 2.88 percent increase represented a lower budget-to-budget increase than the 2.97 percent increase in the current budget from the previous year. He added that it would be unlikely the school board could duplicate that feat.
“We can’t possibly come in with a lower percentage budget every year. It’s just not possible,” Frank said. “We’ve budgeted the best we could.”
The biggest increase in the 2012-13 budget was employee benefits, which will rise $583,500 - a 6.91 percent increase - to $9,026,370. That increase was prompted by a year-to-year rise of 6.5 percent in the teacher retirement system, an 18-percent jump in employee retirement system and a 12-percent rise in public employee health-care costs.
District employee salaries will increase 1.24 percent to $18,296,055.
Frank said the district lost $187,000 in federal education jobs funding for science lab teachers. He said the district expects to receive $3.74 million in state education aid, significantly lower than it had originally anticipated.
The district benefitted from refinancing $1.5 million in debt, according to Frank, who said the refinancing improved the Moody’s rating of the district’s bonds.
The combination of director of curriculum and technology positions also represented a cost saving, he said.
‘“No additional funding was spent by the district to create that position,” Frank said.
New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Superintendent of Schools Robert Katulak said the school district had succeeded in maintaining all educational programs in the district, including the Odyssey program for exceptional students, and class sizes at 22 to 27 students per classroom. He said the district planned to add programs for reading and math intervention. He also said the district would be purchasing 30 new computer workstations to expand the computer labs at the New Hyde Park Road and Hillside Grade schools to enable students there to take standardized state tests.
Katulak said the district faced a “great challenge” this year to develop a budget that would “keep student performance first and foremost” while complying with the new 2 percent state tax cap.
Frank said that failure to pass the budget would trigger $788,000 in cuts from the proposed budget, making it impossible to maintain programs as they are.
“There’s no way, if we had to cut $788,000, that we could stay true to the desires of the community,” Frank said.
School board members voiced their support before the unanimous vote and commended the district administration for its efforts in developing the budget.
“I think it’s fair and it’s balanced,” said Truestee David Del Santo.
Board President Ernest Gentile called it a “big effort” for all those involved.
“It really was pretty difficult. They really did a remarkable job,” Gentile said.
Budget voting will take place on May 15 at the Manor Oaks School from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Voter registration is slated for May 3 at Manor Oaks from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.