The Westbury School District introduced its preliminary budget last week, presenting a $156,156,004 million budget. The budget represents a 7.47 percent increase over last year’s adopted budget, with a current gap of $7,696,165.
At the board of education meeting on Feb. 15, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Christine Costa noted that the maximum allowable tax levy is $78,859,316. The district is currently projected to receive $51,572,594 in state aid, a $1,971,904 increase from last year. State aid makes up about 35 percent of the district’s budget.
“Of that $1.9 million, NYS agencies—our health insurance plan, teacher retirement system and employee retirement system—the increases are running $2.8 million,” said Costa, “Why is that important? [Because] health insurance continues to have increase factors that exceed 10 percent.”
Other additional increases, Costa noted, are collective bargaining ($2.9 million), pupil personnel ($1.7 million), BOCES ($1 million), transportation ($600,000) and sending students to charter schools ($500,000).
“We’re seeing a large increase in charter schools. Every child that goes to charter schools is a $20,000 cost to Westbury,” said Costa, noting that the district is making accommodations for a new charter school in Uniondale.
The budget is still fluid, with state aid not being finalized until April 2 and a proposed tax cap legislation on the floor which could affect the revenue coming in. Expenditures can also change, with contract negotiations still underway, kindergarten registration is ongoing, CSE committee recommendations coming in and transportation increases to be set by the state.
To close the approximately $7.7 million gap in the budget, Costa proposed advocating for additional state aid and the full phase-in of the foundation aid formula.
“We’re going to have to advocate for additional state aid. The state gives most of our state aid in the form of foundation aid. Years ago, when the state had trouble, they created the law that said this is how state aid is given to schools, but when times got hard, they just said they would cut the state aid,” Costa said. “That was many years ago and we continue to not be funded based on the state’s formulas. We’re about 50 percent funded based on that formula. Schools continue to advocate for what they deserve.”
The next budget workshops are Thursday, March 15, and Thursday, March 22. See the full budget presentation at www.westburyschools.org.