Huntington School District voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, May 16 to cast ballots on the proposed school budget for 2017/18, two capital reserve fund propositions and to elect two members to the board of education. Voting will be held at Huntington High School from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The proposed budget totals $126,213,223, an increase of 2.53 percent over the current year’s spending plan. The district’s proposed tax levy increase is $566,420 below the cap established by state law. Huntington’s tax levy will increase 1.35 percent if residents vote to approve the spending plan on next week’s ballot.
The proposal on next Tuesday’s ballot provides for the continuation of a complete slate of Regents, honors and Advanced Placement courses, comprehensive art, music and physical education programs, including marching band, orchestra, chorus, band, music ensembles and specialized art courses and interscholastic athletics for grades 7-12.
The SEARCH and Math Olympiad programs will continue for academically talented fifth and sixth graders. An extensive program of special education classes and services will also continue, as will academic intervention services for students needing assistance to meet state standards.
The proposed budget includes funds for a new secondary curricular robotics program, the Advanced Placement Research Capstone diploma program, expanded elementary grade level FLEX language and STEM program, morning, afternoon and summer enrichment programs and expanded extracurricular programs.
Funding is provided for 65 athletic teams and 99 coaching positions along with a full-time athletic trainer. The budget also keeps the current bus transportation program in place and maintains the district’s commitment to the high school’s science research and robotics programs.
There are monies for the high school college counseling center and extra-curricular activities at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School, Woodhull Intermediate School, J. Taylor Finley Middle School and Huntington High School, including drama club productions, student councils and student newspapers. Intramural programs are provided for students in grades 4-8.
The budget includes $230,335 for new textbooks, $163,030 for new workbooks, $45,264 for new library books, $130,000 for computer software and $324,879 for instructional equipment, including new computers.
Trustees allocated $1,400,000 in reserves to help mitigate the estimated tax rate increase, which has been projected at 1.15 percent. The district projects its assessed valuation will rise from $45,081,357 to $45,168,125. An expanding tax base helps put downward pressure on the tax rate.
Trustees will set the tax levy in the fall when final property assessment figures are available. If the higher assessed valuation stays constant, school officials estimate the 2017/18 tax rate would be $232.05. On the average home in the district assessed at $3,600, taxes would rise $95.04 before STAR program savings are calculated.
Capital Reserve Proposition
Residents will also have an opportunity to vote on a Building Improvement Fund/Capital Reserve Fund proposition that includes $2.495 million worth of projects. The Huntington School District currently has $7,798,248 in available capital reserve fund monies. If voters support release of the funds, property taxes will not increase since the monies are already in place. No new revenues are required. The funds represent dollars previously provided to the district by taxpayers that weren’t needed to pay for regular school operations because of tight fiscal management and economizing. The source of the funding is the annual transfer of surplus monies from the district’s general fund to the two existing Building Improvement Funds.
The projects that will be on the May 16 ballot include:
Washington Primary School
• Replace the building’s roof: $1,250,000
Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School
• Replace two of the building’s three boilers: $850,000
J. Taylor Finley Middle School
• Replace exterior doors and the roll-up door to the wood shop area: $150,000
Nathaniel Woodhull Intermediate School
• Replace four main entrance exterior doors and reconstruct the security vestibule area: $145,000
Southdown Primary School
• Construct a security vestibule in the main lobby: $100,000
Total: $2,495,000 (Estimated and subject to bidding.)
New Building Improvement Fund
Residents are also being asked to authorize creation of a new Building Improvement Fund when they go to the polls on Tuesday, May 16. The new fund would replace two similar ones that are expiring.
School officials are seeking permission to create the new fund for the purpose of completing district wide renovation and reconstruction projects. Establishing the fund will have no impact on taxes.
Use of successive Building Improvement Funds has allowed the Huntington School District to largely avoid the need for selling bonds and incurring debt service payments to update its facilities. The district has one of the lowest levels of debt of any school system on Long Island. By avoiding bonding, taxes have been kept lower than they otherwise would have been.
As is the case for the current funds, existing budget monies would once again be used to capitalize the new fund. If in any given year the district spends less money than it had originally anticipated, these surplus monies could be transferred by the Huntington School Board into the new Building Improvement Fund.
Monies contained in the Building Improvement Fund can only be used for capital projects, such as new school roofs, windows, doors, boilers, facility improvements, etc. None of the monies can be used for general school district expenditures.
If residents approve the proposition, the district would be authorized to create the new fund for a probable term of eight years. It can be capitalized by the transfer of up to $12.5 million in surplus budget funds over its lifetime. Residents would still have to give permission before the district actually begins any project.
The district would be able to apply for state aid on any capital project it completes. The fund would also utilize existing monies and allow the district to avoid borrowing funds through a bond issue. Passage of the proposition will not increase taxes.
Residents will also have an opportunity to elect two members to the Board of Education. Three of the candidates will earn three year terms commencing on July 1 and running through June 30, 2020. Current trustees Jennifer Hebert and Xavier Palacios are running unopposed for re-election.
Eligibility to Vote
To be eligible to vote in the election, an individual must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years of age or older, a resident of Huntington School District for at least 30 days and be registered to vote in a general election or with the school district. For more information contact District Clerk Joanne Miranda at (631) 673-2126 or [email protected].
A copy of the line-by-line proposed budget is available by visiting the Huntington School District’s website at www.joshuacarnes.info. A 12 page brochure containing information about the budget and capital propositions and profiles of the four Huntington School Board candidates has been mailed to all addresses in the district. The publication is also available on the district website.
Contact Superintendent James W. Polansky at [email protected] for more information about the budget and capital reserve propositions.