Budget Preserves High-Value Elwood Education

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Essential Programs and Services Maintained if Budget Approved

On Tuesday, May 17, the Elwood community will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed budget for the 2011-12 school year. Tied to this vote are many other opportunities for our school district: an opportunity to preserve the high-quality education that has allowed Elwood students to succeed and realize great accomplishments over the years; an opportunity for our district to continue to offer a variety of programs and services that support students in becoming well-rounded, cultured citizens; and an opportunity for the Elwood community to remain a desirable place to live and learn.

The District’s proposal continues to provide the necessary breadth of opportunities for our children to learn, grow, and prepare for college and a 21st Century workforce. The proposed budget preserves the core educational programs and services our current students receive, all athletics, the music performing arts program, and most other extracurricular activities. The spending plan represents a budget increase of 5.56%, which equates to a tax levy increase of 7.98%.

The Board of Education is aware that the tax levy increase is large, as compared to surrounding districts. Unfortunately, it is districts such as ours  - districts that have “played by the rules” - that are being challenged in this manner. Many other school systems across Long Island are drawing upon their reserve accounts (much like a homeowner’s savings account) to lessen the tax levy impact. Unlike these other districts, however, our district has carefully budgeted over the years to avoid “overtaxing” the community and artificially building up the reserves. By budgeting carefully, we have maintained a low per pupil expenditure, meaning the district operates very efficiently. For this reason, when our District is faced with a multitude of financial challenges that we have no control over, as discussed below, we have two options: either to dismantle the foundation of an Elwood education or to give the community an opportunity to preserve the core of our program. Of course, the latter is what our Board of Education has voted to do.

Why is this year so challenging? The New York State budget calls for a drastic reduction in state aid to districts across the state. For Elwood, this means a loss of $527,000 with an additional reduction of $290,000 in Federal Stimulus Funds. For a district of our size, this loss of revenue is devastating.

While Elwood continues to see declining support from the state, the state continues to increase the number of unfunded mandates, including a mandatory increase of approximately $784,000 in pension costs for 2011-12.

Community Input is Helpful
When the District began the budget process several months ago, the Board asked the community to voice their opinion on what they valued and would support in a proposed budget. Last year, the Board of Education proposed a budget that made reductions but kept the majority of programs and services intact to preserve the high value of an Elwood education. Given the defeat of the budget on the first public vote, this year the Board began the process by evaluating a core budget – meaning one that was at contingency level for 2011-12, with an expenditure increase of only 1.92%. The picture a contingency budget paints for our District is devastating – it calls for the elimination of 33 teaching/staff positions, all athletics, and the music performing arts program, to name just a few. Even with these drastic reductions, the tax levy would still increase by 5.65%.

The Board was pleased with the amount of public participation throughout the budget process and appreciates the feedback from the hundreds of parents, students, alumni, and community residents who took the time to voice their opinions on what should be preserved through the proposed budget. Based on this input, the Board restored some programs and services that would have otherwise been cut. For a complete list of what has been preserved through the budget, as well as a list of reductions, please see page 2.

For more information on the proposed budget, including copies of budget documents presented at the Board workshops, visit the District’s website at www.elwood.k12.ny.us. Most importantly, please take advantage of the opportunity to vote on the proposed budget on May 17.