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Zero Cuts in Miller Place Superintendent's Proposed Budget

For first time in a few years, the proposed budget for the Miller Place School District does not include any cuts and proposed full-day kindergarten program.

After a handful of tumultuous budget seasons that included teacher and staff layoffs and cuts to curriculum, sports and activies, Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Higuera's proposed 2013-'14 budget includes no cuts.

The budget, which Higuera presented to the Board of Education and those in attendance at Miller Place High School Wednesday night, would not exceed the expected tax levy cap of 4.31 percent. The proposed budget of $67,757,777 not only had zero cuts, but also included multiple instructional program and co-curricular initiatives along with another major proposal of full-day kindergarten.

If the full-day kindergarten proposal is adopted in the budget by the board, the projected expenditure increase would be 4.31 percent. If it is not, the projected increase would drop to 3.64 percent. This proposal was one of the hot topics of debate at the meeting.

"We have been looking at full-day kindergarten as an administrative staff here year, after year, after year and I feel that this is the time to do it," Higuera said. "There is aid that's been on the books 20 or 30 years that helps school districts convert from a half-day to a full-day program. Miller Place has never taken advantage of that opportunity, and I don't believe that opportunity is going to be there much longer."

With the New York State Conversion Aid, the total cost of the full-day program to the district would be just $105,370 -- possibly less -- over the next two years. The question many had was about the sustainability of this program after the two years, and some were concerned this would put the district in a position to once again have to cut programs a few years down the road.

"I'm nervous about the kindergarten [proposal]," said Marc Bloom, Vice President of the Miller Place Athletics Booster. "We've worked hard to try to keep what we've had. I think we've got a good thing going and I think we need to stay on that good thing."

Along with questions about the kindergarten program, there were also concerns about the tax levy increase, which is still up over four percent.

"I believe this is putting us in a dangerous spot and I dont see from the numbers that this is a sustainable program," Sound Beach resident Wlodek Guryn said of the kindergarten proposal. "I also do not believe this budget is taking into account economic realities in the community."

While there were plenty of questions, many also took to the mic to thank the board and administration, including Miller Place Teachers Association President Nancy Sanders. Last year, the district and the MPTA agreed to a four-year contract extension which helped preserve programs and jobs for the current school year.

"I would just like to say thank you," Sanders said. "My staff is very thankful that we've heard for the first time 'no cuts'. I hope it stays that way because it's been a rough few years."

The Board of Education will now look over the budget and there will be at least one, possibly two more hearings before the board adopts a budget on March 20.

"I think it's a breath of fresh air," said board member Brian Neyland. "At this point we know we have a budget alot closer to something the community can accept and something the board knows is really sutainable in the future...that's the most important thing."

Justin Time February 28, 2013 at 01:28 PM
A 4.31% is NOT acceptable. 3% cap is too much. Increase class size, decrease part time teachers and bring it down to reality. Get rid od the dead wood.
Wlodek February 28, 2013 at 02:14 PM
I would like to point out that the projected tax rate increase of 4.31 percent was obtained under optimistic assumption about the assessed value. Given that the housing market is still not stable the more realistic assumptions would yield a significantly higher tax increase of 5.31 percent. Both numbers are higher than in many districts which pierced the cap last year, for example. So being under the cap means little in Miller Place. Having said that I do acknowledge and agree with those who say that it was good to see for the first time that there were no cuts proposed and additions were put forward for the consideration by the BOE. If we could only keep the tax rate increase in the lower range I would be joining others in their enthusiasm. I encourage the BOE to move in that direction as we continue during this budget season.
Captain Howard Hawrey February 28, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Well said Wlodek. I think the Miller Place BOE will find that many of our fellow residents feel exactly as you (we) do.
Donna February 28, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Increasing class size is not the answer. The classes are too full as it is.
Andrew February 28, 2013 at 11:07 PM
A better start, but need to reduce reliance on NY State revenue. Highly likely that aid will go down over next decade as NY State is impacted by cuts in federal aid & higher heath care costs. District needs to budget for this situation by planning on zero growth, and putting aside a reserve to lessen effect of future cuts.
Noelle Dunlop February 28, 2013 at 11:27 PM
The class sizes are already too big for optimal learning. To suggest that we increase class sizes when we already have 28 to 32 kids to one teacher is ridiculous.
Anton March 01, 2013 at 05:52 AM
Full-day kindergarten is not necessary, at least at this point. Increasing taxes to pay for this would not be prudent, we will just have to cut it again later when we have to contribute larger amounts to the pension system and pay for ever-increasing health benefits and salaries. I don't understand how "this is the time to do it," when we basically just barely dug ourselves out of the hole. Give the taxpayers a break...we don't have to go right up to the cap every year. Let's get to a point where the finances are stable for a couple of years before we make any more big expenditures. Many people are paying $10-15k/yr in taxes...4.3% is a $430-645/yr increase. I know we see this as the norm, but 10 more years of this and those paying $10-15k will be paying $15.2-22.8k/yr...15 more years gets you to $18.8-28.2k. That 4.3% still sound like a good deal? I've seen my taxes go from $10k to $15k in the 10 years I've been here. This is unsustainable. How about we try a 0% tax increase? I'd hate to see us let our guards down this year, and not continue to chip away at our expenses. All employees should be contributing 20% of their health insurance expense, and more of the burden of the pension system should be shifted to the employees. If we don't fix these underlying problems, we are doomed.
Janet March 02, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Donna & Noelle, I went to private school and my class size was 60. Yes that is correct I did say 60 and I and my classmates learned just find. And perhaps the teacher was tired but she did her job and she did it well. We all learned and graduated and went on to good careers. Now I am not advocating 60 in a class but something needs to be done to give taxpayers relief. Many can't afford to stay in this community and especially the retired ones on a fixed income. After 37 years for me of consistent tax increases it would be nice for just one year to not have any.
Justin Time March 03, 2013 at 12:57 PM
No cuts? Of course not..the proposal is a 4.21% increase! The goal should be a 0% increase and cut the fat and waste to get there. Last year's cap of 3.1% was met, how ironic that cap is always pushed to its limit. That makes a 7.3% increase in two years. Think about it. Vote NO!
MP Majority March 03, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Vote No, plain and simple. I agree with other posters - why must we always assume that we must hit the tax cap? How about coming in under the max cap? Healthcare costs and pension costs are becoming an increasingly larger part of each year's budget. Remind me please, how does that help the kids???? Full-day Kindergarten? How about we argue for No-day Kindergarten, and then settle for what we already have got? These are not the times to be adding services.
Justin Time March 03, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Agree 100%..strive for zero %

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