Voters’ 59 percent approval rate passes 2.47 percent tax levy increase
Floral Park residents continued to pour into John Lewis Childs School and Floral Park-Bellerose School until the polls closed at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 19, to cast their votes for the revised 2012-13 school budget. Following the failed vote on May 15, which did not receive the required supermajority of 60 percent voter approval, voters weighed in with a 59 percent approval rate to pass the revised budget, which represents a 2.65 percent budget-to-budget increase over 2011-12 and yields a 2.47 percent tax levy increase.
“The budget that was proposed on May 15 was a budget to maintain the current programs and staffing,” said Superintendent Dr. Lynn Pombonyo. As a result of its failure to pass, the Floral Park-Bellerose School District (FPBSD) board of education worked to pare down the original proposed 4.86 percent increase. As a result, cuts were made across the board. “What do I see with the biggest problems with the cuts? I see problems with all of them,” Pombonyo said.
Ideally, the board wants class sizes to be fewer than 25 students. The revised budget, which stands at $27,085,617 after $583,182 in appropriation cuts from the original budget, includes the elimination of three full-time teaching positions and reassignment of the district science teacher to a classroom teaching position. As a result, some classes will have more than 25 students. The district will also cut a part-time nursing position. To be sure, both schools in the district employ respective full-time nurses, but with 960 children attending FPBS, having an additional part-time nurse on hand was helpful according to Pombonyo.
Additional cuts include two special education teacher aid positions; removal of the allocation for an additional school bus, driver and other transportation expenses previously proposed in the defeated bus transportation eligibility proposition on May 15; and cuts in capital projects. The district receives 44 percent state aid reimbursement for capital projects, “so if we can’t do the project, not only can’t we get the work done but we don’t get the revenue back,” said Pombonyo.
While the district is entitled to state aid reimbursement for capital projects, it has been hit with severe cuts in state aid since 2009 and “ever-increasing state mandated costs,” according to the district. Going forward, however, the board remains optimistic. “We have a very supportive community with respect to education. We always have,” said Pombonyo. “They turn out for all events that we hold for our children. … Taxes are becoming a problem, especially since we have an issue with the equitability of our state aid here and have to raise taxes because of that problem, so we are really happy that people came out and passed this budget by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin.”
On Tuesday, June 19, 1,430 voters approved the revised 2012-13 school budget, while 995 residents voted against it.