Massapequa schools are facing about $4 million in budget cuts because of the state real estate tax cap, officials say.
At a budget presentation at Thursday's school board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Alan Adcock said that the two percent tax cap and state mandates will prevent the district from bringing in enough revenue to fund all current programs.
"Next year our costs are going to be rising significantly more than two percent driven by increases in the pension system, increases in transportation costs, really the mandates that we have," Adcock said.
Adcock said that the district will likely have to make about $4 to $4.5 million in cuts. The numbers are not final because the state budget proposals for school aid won't be known until April.
Among the issues the district is facing, according to Adcock, are a possible decrease in state aid and the end of a rental agreement next year the district has with Nassau BOCES for a facility on Carmans Road, which brings in about $1 million to the district.
Although the Massapequa is still in talks with BOCES to extend the deal, the district cannot raise taxes because to make up for the difference because of the cap.
The school district has used "rainy day" funds in the past to offset higher taxes, but Adcock was quick to point out that those accounts are finite.
Adcock said the budget squeeze is hitting the district despite Masapequa's record of trying to stay fiscally responsible. "We have in Massapequa, one of the lowest per pupil costs in Nassau County," he said. "Our tax increases have been way below two percent, so we have absolutely done the right thing."
Because of some exemptions to the tax cap law, Massapequa can actually raise slightly more than two percent, Adcock said.
"It just gets more and more difficult to try to build these budgets the way we did in the past and continue to manage programs an opportunities which have served our children well and allowed them to grow and prosper," Superintendent Charles Sulc said.
Sulc said school districts have been in touch with each other to try to fight Albany for mandate relief, while Massapequa is beginning the process of examining where it might be able to cut.
"What we're doing right now, is taking apart our entire budget, blowing it out line by line and looking at areas that we might be able to suggest to the board of education to consider for reduction," Sulc said.
Board Vice President Jane Ryan said, "It's a sad day when decisions are made and essentially rammed down the throats of school districts, towns and municipalities without giving any time to adjust and not giving any mandate relief."
Board member Gary Bennett said that how the area reacts to the changes coming from Albany will be critical going forward.
"It is what it is," Bennett said. "What I'm hoping is how much cooperation, we get from the various unions, from the parents when certain things have to be cut. Certainly no one here wants to cut anything, but the point is, some cuts are going to have to be made, and is the community going to understand?"