A proposed two percent tax cap and the possibility of reduced aid for schools has raised concerns from the Patchogue-Medford School District’s Board of Education as trustees begin reviewing the 2011-2012 spending plan.
At the recent Board of Education Budget meeting at South Ocean Middle School, Assistant Superintendent of Business Donna Jones said that the district may lose up to $7 million to $12 million in funding in the worst possible projections that sees the passing of the tax cap and a five percent reduction in state aid.
As a result, Jones has been putting together various projections as to what may happen in order to stay ahead of the game. Jones said the worst possible situation would be the two percent cap combined with a five percent state aid decrease, while the best would be a freeze on the cap and a four percent decrease.
The worst cuts could result in the district being forced to cut back staffing, which Jones said is why staffing levels are typically planned later in the budget planning process.
“The last thing we want to do is cut staffing because that directly impacts kids,” said board member William Lavelle.
Board of education president Thomas Donofrio said he is asking board members to write state officials to invite them to come to Patchogue-Medford and meet with school administrators to review the district’s financial records and offer their thoughts on what cuts are appropriate.
He also said that the board of education will attend a meeting on February 12 that will include other school district boards of education and state elected officials who represent Suffolk County. When given the opportunity to address politicians, as every district board will at the event, Donofrio said that they will attempt to describe the potential devastation the tax cap may have on the district.
“We will be able to paint the picture of talented teachers standing on an employment line and classes with 50 to 60 students in a classroom,” the board of education president said. “We will take to Albany a picture of a decimated Patchogue-Medford school district.”
“This is a critical year for lobbying and rallying the troops and parents to have their voices heard, and perhaps they will soften on this cap,” Jones said. “Not that we want to support major increases in taxes, but we don’t want to devastate the district and want the voters to be able to control what their fate can be.”
Jones said the amount of state aid the district will receive will be announced Tuesday.
“When I receive the proposed state budget we will analyze it and prepare an impact statement and discuss it further at the following budget session along with what we originally planned,” Jones said.
In a statement released Monday, State Senator Lee Zeldin, R-Shirley, issued a comment on working with local government and school districts on the tax cap.
"I am looking forward to working with local governments, school districts and others on a comprehensive package of government reforms. We need to move forward on mandate relief to ensure that we reach our goals of both a quality education for our youth and property tax relief for our families," Zeldin said.
The next Board of Education Budget meeting will take place at the South Ocean Middle School conference room on Feb. 7.