Oyster Bay–East Norwich Finances/Bond Referendum

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I have been a resident of OB for 49 years, a former school board member and involved at budget meetings. The following details are pertinent for the residents to understand the finances prior to the Bond Referendum vote on Dec. 17. The current enrollment in grades K-12 is 1,611 students (a loss of 24 from June) with a budget of $55,500,000. The superintendent earns $308,229, which includes benefits. The two assistant superintendents combined earn $427,503. There are 11 other administrators and staff earning more than $130,000 each, equaling $1,596,099. Total for above 14 positions equals $2,331,831.  

Last year the BOE approved adding an additional assistant principal at the high school, in anticipation of one A/P resigning June. Therefore, at the HS there was one principal and three assistant principals at a cost of over $700,000 (salary and benefits) for the four positions for the year with 760 students. This was ludicrous and certainly an abuse of the taxpayers’ money.

Over the past several years the district has ended up with a surplus of between $2 to 3 million and for the year ending June 30 of this year, there was a surplus of $4 million. This is due to overestimating the budget expenses, which is totally unacceptable. A portion of the surplus is included in a proposition to put the funds in the capital reserve fund. The proposition reads “at no additional cost to the taxpayer.” This is misleading and inaccurate as these funds have already been paid by the taxpayers. It should state “these costs will be funded from the revenue surplus at no additional cost to the taxpayer.”  

The Bond Referendum for $7,000,000 (rounded) plus interest will be about $12 million at term. The proposal is too large a scale for this small district. There are numerous underutilized classrooms on a daily basis at the HS, which can be combined into one large area as an alternate to adding new space to reduce the scope and cost to $3 million instead of $7 million. The music area can also make use of the empty rooms and practice and rehearse using the auditorium. The district still has an outstanding bond debt and I do not feel that this economy warrants assuming more debt. My concern is that the district will have state of art facilities with low enrollment—who will bear the burden?

The Security Bond Referendum is $826,000. This, too, is a padded estimate and should be scaled back to $500,000; declare it an “Emergency Contingency Expense” and funds are readily available from an undesignated fund balance to initiate the safety measures. Do it now for the safety of the students.  

We all want the best for the children, but there has to be a parallel to balance the needs, the wants, the necessities, while keeping in mind we are not a private specialized school. The district has to hold the line on spending and show fiscal responsibility to students and residents.

—Grace Searby

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