With the finalization of the upcoming school improvement bond vote in its rear view mirror, the Rockville Centre Board of Education met Tuesday night with the annual May budget vote in mind.
The tax levy limit for the 2013-14 school year is 3.57 percent or approximately a $3 million increase on the budget. Assistant Superintendent Robert Bartels said he expects revenues to increase by $500,000, which means that the budget increase must be limited to approximately $3.5 million to remain within the tax cap.
Currently, the budget increase sits at nearly $4.9 million, meaning that the board needs to trim more than $1.3 million.
A majority of the increases in the budget were related to salaries, which, according to district documents, are up to nearly $57.4 million -- a 2.72 percent increase over 2012-13.
The increase in salaries was also accompanied by an increase in benefits.
"Benefits, which is really the largest increase we've had, is close to a 13 percent increase [over the previous year]," Bartels said. "The reason for that is that the retirement system contributions continue to increase, as well as health insurance, worker's compensation, social security -- all of the other benefits continue to drive up the costs of the budget."
The board dicussed two groups of the budget Tuesday night: general support and instruction.
The budget for general support decreased $118,225 from the previous year. The budget for instruction, however, increased $1.8 million, a change of 3.11 percent.
According to district documents, the increases in instruction include the aforementioned contractual salaries, a potential International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program, IB English 12, Math 6-8 textbooks, Achieve 3000, technology staffing and project costs, foster tuitions and a boys swim team.
A lengthy discussion was held about the IB Middle Years Program involving the board, Superintendent William Johnson, high school principal Carol Burris and middle school principal Shelagh McGinn.
The suggested IB Middle Years Program is a three-year program (grades 6-8) that teaches students to learn through different lenses, according to McGinn. Teachers would have be trained differently in order to run the program.
An IB coordinator would eventually be needed for the IB Middle Years Program.
"We've wanted to do this for a very long time and we keep pushing and trying," McGinn said. "... The bottom line is that this position is absolutely a ton of work for whoever's going to do it. Quite honestly, the thought of putting someone in is something that we know we have to do, we want to do. I would rather do it sooner than later."
If a part-time employee was brought on to run the program, the salary for the position would be $40,000, according to Bartels. However, a stipend was also being considered for the position instead of the part-time salary. Neither the salary nor the stipend were included in the 2013-14 budget.
"I think it's incumbent upon all of us to think as creatively as possible to avoid adding additional staff in these days," board vice president Mark Masin said.
The next Rockville Centre Board of Education meeting is scheduled for March 13 at 7:30 p.m.