After more than two hours of discussion at the final budget meeting of the Bayport-Blue Point Board of Education Tuesday night, the board adopted the school district's $63.6 million proposed 2011-’12 budget.
The budget formation process this year was fraught with difficult financial decisions, and discussions at budget sessions elicited passionate responses from the community, administrators and board.
Jim March, board president, explained to the audience that the board is aware of the current economic climate and understands the frustration residents have expressed concerning increasing salary and benefit costs.
“People have spoken on (how the district must decrease) salary and benefits; we’ve definitely heard this message,” he said. “We’ve been going in a more conservative direction, but obviously not to the satisfaction of the taxpayers.”
The budget represents a 3.99 percent tax increase, with a budget-to-budget increase of $1,67 million (2.7 percent).
“We won’t know the tax rate on the levy until September,” said Michael Cipriani, assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations. “The one component all school districts are responsible for is the tax levy increase.”
The initial budget introduced by school district administrators included a 3.75 percent tax percent, but that grew to 3.9 percent when, at the suggestion of several board members, the district restored several teaching aide positions that had been previously cut from the co-teaching program.
It is not determined what funds, if any, will be used toward curriculum development/writing, as the district has yet to be informed of new standards. Board members noted they would like to see money go into this initiative.
The tense atmosphere of the Tuesday meeting was unmatched in previous years, as the board, administration and residents discussed the extremely difficult situation school districts and taxpayers are now facing because of decreases in state aid and ever-rising operating costs.
Bayport resident and member of the BAC, Rebecca Campbell, was one of the last speakers to address the board and administration before the meeting’s adjournment. Campbell, who currently has five children in the district, emphasized the importance of everybody cooperating despite differing opinions.
“As we go forward, we’re not always going to agree, but we have to be able to have contradictory opinions from you (administration, board and other residents). We’re not bashers, we just have an opinion to the contrary," she said.
Check back with Patch for further updates on the school budget and board of education election.