One of the bigger issues covered at this week's Bellmore Board of Education meeting was the result of the recent central high school district's public budget workshop session, in addition to the board's usual updates concerning general district topics.
The meeting opened with reports given by various members of board on the status of the district as a whole.
In her report on the central high school district, trustee Janet Goller's discussion remained focused on the outcome of their most recent 2011-2012 budget workshop meeting. This item was of special interest to those gathered in light of recent financial issues faced by the Bellmore district as a result new taxes and cuts to state aid.
"We are not looking to cut programs," Goller said. "In fact, we're going to be adding a program: a partnership with St. John's University, where students will be able to get college credit with no cost to the district and nominal costs to parents."
Goller also reported that the high school district's sports program is also currently safe.
"We have 185 sports teams, and at this time, we are retaining all of those sports teams," she said. "We are not cutting our athletic program."
However, not all the news was good.
"At the moment, we're talking about laying off 25 instructional and non-instructional positions," Goller said. "We're also looking to restructure some of the administrative positions and their job duties, to maybe get them to teach more classes to save money overall."
Goller blamed the proposed cuts on a 4.1 million dollar increase in pension and health insurance costs, a 2.5 million dollar decrease in state aid, new sewer usage fees and the new two-percent school tax cap imposed by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Board of Education president Jay L.T. Breakstone explained the long-term harm he believes that tax caps can cause to schools.
"Whenever you run polls asking people if they're in favor of tax caps, 87 percent say 'yes,' " he said. "But when you ask these people if they’re in favor of cutting aid to their schools, they say 'no.' People need to understand that there's a price to pay for these tax caps."
Breakstone also announced that the lawsuit against Nassau Country regarding the controversial "County Guarantee," of which Bellmore is one of 41 districts involved, has been filed and is currently underway.
"The county wants to shift the costs of tax assessment over to school districts, which makes the county's budget look better, and our budget look worse" he said. "The bottom line is that the taxpayer ends up paying both ways."
Superintendent Joseph S. Famularo's report mainly consisted of the retirement of several teachers in the district, effective at the end of the current school year, in addition to granting extended childcare leaves of absence to several other teachers, as well as authorizing their temporary replacements.
Among the items covered in the report of the assistant to the Superintendent for Instructional Services, Joanne C. Dacek, was the preparation for a science fair for the district's third through fifth graders, district-wide second-grade recycling programs and the celebration held at Charles A. Reinhard Early Childhood Center in celebration of their 100th day of classes for the year,
"The day began with a whole school assembly," she said. "The students counted to 100 by ones and fives, sang 100-day songs, and remained quiet for 100 seconds ... which is longer than you may think."
This month's Parents As Reading Partners (PARP) program was also touched upon by Dacek, who highlighted Reinhard's recent "Reading Rocks" show, where students of local music school The Rock Underground performed reading-themed songs.
Next, Deirdre Gambino, assistant superintendent for business and technology, gave her report, whose main item consisted of the announcement that the district has extended their current agreement with their student transportation company for the next school year. Board of Education president Jay L.T. Breakstone noted that only authorizing a one-year extension at this time was a result of the district's current budget woes.
"Budgets being what they are, we don't want to extend obligations much beyond next year," he said.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the Bellmore Board of Education is on Wednesday, April 27, at 8 p.m.
The next district budget work session, to be held at Winthrop Avenue, is scheduled for Tuesday, April 5, at 7 p.m.