NHP-GCP board solicits public budget input

NHP-GCP board solicits public budget input

The New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Board of Education conducted a brief budget workshop at its Monday night meeting to solicit public input and two PTA members were happy to help them.

“We cannot consider the possibility of cutting music, science labs and the library,” said Kathy Wong, president of the Manor Oaks PTA of the 2012-13 district budget.

She said learning to play musical instruments instilled a sense of discipline in young students and said they needed the library resources to become media-savvy.

“Science labs bring lessons to life as children are able to apply their five senses. We need to get our kids hooked on science at a young age and we need science labs to do that,” Wong said.

She asked the board members “to make every effort to keep our programs and our staff intact.”

Wong noted that neighboring schools start teaching their students to play musical instruments in third grade – rather than 4th grade, as in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park district – and start foreign language classes in sixth grade rather than seventh grade.

Carrie Bruno, a PTA member at the New Hyde Park Road School, said she wanted to see improvements in the programs the district schools offer.

“I would like to see even more. I am thankful and we want to move forward. We can offer so much more and I hope we will,” Bruno said.

The two women were the only residents who spoke at the sparsely attended meeting in the Garden City Park School.

Board president Ernest Gentile thanked them for their comments. But no one offered any encouraging words about programs improving or even being maintained in the shadow of the impending 2 percent tax levy cap.

Last year, the school board successfully proposed a $33.5 million budget, which represented a 2.97 percent increase over the previous budget and translated into a 5.89 percent rise in the tax levy.

That budget was produced after more than $200,000 in cuts, including the elimination of a “contingency” teaching position that saved $88,000, $60,368 in cuts for new textbooks, $41,000 in reduced hours for lunch monitors and $14,000 cut for an outdoor educational experiences for 5th and 6th graders in the district. The district also draw $584,690 from its reserve fund to preserve existing programs and avoid layoffs.

At the time, Michael Frank, superintendent of business for the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District, predicted the impending 2 percent tax cap on the district’s tax levy was going to “decimate our school system as we know it.”

The school district comprises four K through 6 schools as a satellite to the Sewanhaka Central High School District. Residents in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park district also pay for approximately 25 percent of the Sewanhaka district’s budget.

After the meeting, Frank sounded somber about prospects for the budget, saying preparation of the budget is “like driving down the road at night with the lights off” in the absence of key financial information from the state. The state has revealed a project 3 percent increase in public employee health care coverage – still above the 2 percent cap, Frank noted – but has yet to present final numbers for the annual increased in the Teachers Retirement System and state aid, which could increase by 4 percent.

“They expect us to do all this without the information we need,” Frank said. “It makes it difficult to provide information people want on the tax.”

Reach reporter Richard Tedesco by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 516.307.1045 x204

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