Meanwhile, BOE Works to Achieve a Palatable Budget
It’s all about the kids. That’s the message Floral Park-Bellerose Superintendent Dr. Lynn Pombonyo wanted to drive home at the Board of Education meeting held at John Lewis Childs School on Monday, April 11. “I’d like to start out … with some things that are happening within our schools. … Sometimes the press lately has to do with things involving our schools, missing some very important points, that being our children.” Indeed, school budget issues have been widely covered in the media of late, as New York works to finalize its state aid figures for respective districts.
Dr. Pombonyo shared with audience members her delight in attending the recent spring concert at John Lewis Childs School, where third- through sixth-graders performed a medley of music, ranging from Beatles songs to show tunes. “It was a really happy occasion here, and our children seemed to really enjoy the Beatles just as much as many of us did many decades ago,” Pombonyo said.
Prior to that, the Floral Park-Bellerose School drama club performed their rendition of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. “I think what helped to make that production so tremendous was the incredible comedic talent of our children, from those who had lines on the stage and said them just with the right tone in their voices and with the right timing responding to others [to] the Oompa Loompas who seemed to be coming from every door in the auditorium doing some kind of a dance or a grand entrance,” she added.
Moving from the arts to alternative ways to reinforce academic skills, Dr. Pombonyo offered gratitude to the PTA and faculty, who worked together on “March Madness” to produce daily math-related games, puzzles and challenges. The superintendent also attended recent faculty-hosted “author and illustrator” parties, where she was privy to students’ writing samples of the students. “I have never seen such phenomenal beginning and ending sentences coming our of second grade students. They clearly have gotten the skill of how to start something that grabs your attention … Our children’s writing accomplishments are certainly something that we can celebrate here tonight.”
Both schools have also launched First Lego League groups as part of the district’s Saturday Enrichment program. The First Lego League incorporates math, science and technology. Students have to program computers to make robots that they construct using Legos to solve different challenges. “[The children] really rose to solve some complex challenges,” Dr. Pombonyo said.
Meanwhile, the Board of Education has been crunching numbers to solve its own challenges. New York has cut state aid, and Floral Park has been hard hit. “It looks like the districts that have the highest projected tax levies in terms of percentage on Long Island are Floral Park-Bellerose, next Franklin Square, next Elmont, New Hyde Park, Sewanhaka, Wantagh and Seaford,” Dr. Pombonyo said. Those seven districts have roughly the lowest per-pupil expenditure, she added. “What is happening with districts that are spending the least, and our state legislators are getting it slowly, many of the aids are reimbursement aids,” she explained. In essence, districts that have cut expenses and have increased efficiency stand to receive the least in state aid.
Dr. Pombonyo presented a worst-case scenario at the April 11 meeting. A home within the Floral Park-Bellerose district with an assessed value of $416,266 paid a school tax bill of $5,767 for 2010-11, of which 45 percent, or $2,611, went to Floral-Park Bellerose and 55 percent, or $3,156, went to the Sewanhaka Central High School District. The projected tax levy increase for 2011-12 on a home with the same assessed value is 8.79 percent for the Floral Park-Bellerose District, which equates to a projected tax bill increase of $230 for the year or $19.13 per month. The projection for the Sewanhaka Central High School District is a 5.2 percent increase, which equates to $164 for the year or $13.68 per month.
“Some people may think 8.79 is ridiculously high. It is, but we’re telling you on an average home what that translates to. Obviously, if your home is assessed much higher, it’s going to be higher, and if your home is assessed much lower, it’s going to be lower,” Dr. Pombonyo said.
The board will continue to work with senators to increase state aid, Dr. Pombonyo said, as it continues to hammer out the budget. School districts don’t set their tax levy until Aug. 15, she added, when all of the revenues are known, especially state aid.