School District Talks Proposed Budget

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It is currently budget season for the Floral Park-Bellerose School District for the 2019-20 school year. Some highlights of the proposed tax levy, which will see a proposed increase of 2.33 percent, include: maintenance of all academic programs, mental wellness support, maintenance of facilities and security, enhanced curricula and programs to support ELA, math, science, social studies and STEAM, expansion of technology opportunities and the continuation of compliance for qualified residents to receive a tax rebate check.

The proposed 2019-20 budget this year will be $31,963,935. Last year’s budget cost $31,078,736, which was $885,199 less than this year’s proposed budget. Additionally, this year’s tax levy is $24,013,644, which is 2.33 percent greater than last year if approved. The tax levy increase is within the property tax cap limit.

According to a pamphlet that the school district sent out to district residents, despite staying within the state-mandated property tax cap the proposed budget will not adversely affect the instructional programs within the district with full-day kindergarten and expanded science opportunities being maintained in the budget.

The school district also gave an update on the bond that was passed in October in order to expand and renovate Floral Park-Bellerose and John Lewis Childs elementary schools.

“The bond that was supported by the community in October will bring exciting changes for our district,” read the pamphlet. “The district is in the process of designing the extensions and must receive approval from the state’s education department before construction can begin.”

The total cost of the expansion and renovation is $17.5 million. The district plans to offset the cost to taxpayers by utilizing several funding sources including: $2.3 million in community-approved capital reserve funds, $432,512 in Smart Schools Bond Act funds, New York State Building Aid and long-term borrowing for the remaining $14.7 million.

Some of the expansion and renovation plans for Floral Park-Bellerose includes eight additional classrooms to expand instructional opportunities. Meanwhile, John Lewis Childs plans to construct 10 additional classrooms and has plans to include an increase in space for music programs, the creation of a new ENL classroom, renovations of faculty bathrooms and consolidate office space among other plans.

Besides voting on the school budget, residents will also have the opportunity to vote two members of the district’s board of education. Trustee Douglas Vigo is running for reelection unopposed. Vigo was appointed to the board in 2013, has lived in the district for more than 36 years and has served as trustee, vice president and president of the board of education. In 2017, Vigo was appointed to serve on the Sewanhaka Central High School board of education.

“I continue to volunteer for the board, so that I can ensure that all of the children in the Floral Park-Bellerose School District have an opportunity to achieve their individual social, emotional and educational goals,” said Vigo. “As a board member, I am always making sure that we are being financially prudent and being responsible for the taxpayer.”

Vigo’s plan for his next term is to continue to work with members of the school community to ensure that the district provides quality programs.

Stepping down this year is trustee Denise DellaCorte who has been on the board since 2011.

“After serving for eight years now I have decided, with mixed emotions, to move on,” said DellaCorte, when the New Hyde Park Illustrated News reached out for comment.

Michael Culotta

Running unopposed for her seat is resident Michael Culotta.

“About five years ago, my wife and I were searching for a place where we could plant our roots, have kids, and raise a family,” said Culotta. “We stumbled upon Floral Park and we instantly fell in love with the village. Our oldest daughter recently turned two and my wife and I welcomed our second daughter into the world just a few weeks ago.”

Culotta said that he’s running for trustee because he cares about the village’s children and the community, hoping to keep the district’s schools the best in the state.

“The school district is planning to renovate and expand Floral Park-Bellerose Elementary School and John Lewis Childs Elementary School,” explained Culotta. “These projects are critical to our community because they will help establish a 21st century learning environment designed to meet the students’ academic, social and emotional needs. I am an attorney and my legal practice has focused on large-scale construction projects. I’m hoping to lend my skill set to the school board and do all that I can to help make these projects successful for our children and our community.”

The development of the Belmont Park arena, which has been a hot topic within the village for quite sometime, is a concern for Culotta as well.

“I’m concerned with the potential for harmful impacts to our students and school personnel resulting from Empire State Development’s proposed redevelopment at Belmont Park,” he said. “The state is proposing to construct a new NHL arena with 435,000-square-feet of retail and a large hotel on a site bordering Floral Park-Bellerose Elementary School. I have concerns with a new parking lot, a new power station, idling buses and tailgating right in the backyard of where our children learn and play. As a trustee, I would be committed to working with the school district and the state to mitigate any harmful impacts resulting from the redevelopment at Belmont Park.”

Culotta is also interested in expanding the schools district’s pre-K program from a part-time to full-time one.

“The part-time program presents many challenges for our students and our working families, and I am interested in finding a cost-effective way of expanding the pre-K program to meet the needs of our community, while remaining fiscally responsible to our taxpayers,” said Culotta.

Residents can vote, depending on where they live within the village, on Tuesday, May 21, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information, residents should contact the office of the district clerk at 1 Poppy Place in Floral Park or call 516-434-2725.

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