SCHOOL VOTE: West Hempstead school budget proposal fails
A handful of school budget vote results have not come in yet, but News 12 has learned just one district budget failed, the West Hempstead School District.
On Tuesday, 124 school districts across Long Island put their school budgets up for a vote.
In total it included $14 billion in proposed spending, and 400 candidates for school board positions.
Almost all school districts across Long Island won voter support of budgets except in West Hempstead
According to the West Hempstead School Districts website, the proposed $71.39 million budget plan failed with 734 ‘yes’ votes to 1,103 ‘no.’ Lamont Johnson and Joylette Williams won the open school board seats.
The proposal would have raised taxes in the community to 2.14%.
Joe Alayna, of West Hempstead, says he received a flyer in his mailbox that claimed the district had a $70 million surplus.
"It was an anonymous flyer. I don't know who put it into everybody's mailbox," says Alayna. "I just had to read it, it was odd that there was so much more money in the surplus and the students going down, so it was a combination I think of people are tired of paying a lot of taxes "
Daniel Rehman, superintendent of the West Hempstead School District, issued a statement saying, "We are aware that a flyer claiming to be from the Concerned Citizens of West Hempstead has been circulating throughout the community. This flyer contains several inaccuracies that we felt we should correct.
The flyer makes inaccurate claims about monies in "non-essential rainy day funds." The flyer uses the term "reserve fund balance," which is a bit misleading. While reserve funds are part of fund balance, fund balance is not the same as reserves and contains funds in addition to reserves.
The $7.6 million amount cited as "reserve fund balance in 2011" includes amounts from funds that are not reserves or fund balance (including funds held in the cafeteria and capital projects funds).
The flyer cites growth in fund balance due to "overbudgeting." The flyer correctly states that, since the 2010-2011 fiscal year, actual expenses have come in under budget by approximately $2.6 million each year. Looked at another way, the district spent within approximately 4% of its budget or approximately 96% of its budgeted amount on average each year during this period. This is an example of reasonable, conservative budgeting, especially when considering that the budget development process begins approximately 9 months before the start of the fiscal year for which it was created and approximately 18 months before the end of that same fiscal year. It is simply not possible to budget to the penny, as the flyer seems to want the District to do.
The flyer also claims that the amount currently "parked in reserve accounts" is "equal to half of the proposed [sic] tax levy and growing." As was previously stated, "reserve accounts" are not the same as fund balance. The amount currently held in District reserve accounts is approximately $12 million. The proposed tax levy is approximately $48.8 million. As a result, the amount currently held in reserve accounts is approximately 25% of the proposed tax levy, not half as the flyer claims. Additionally, if we take the $17.8 million "reserve fund balance" cited in the flyer, it is only about 36% of the proposed tax levy, not half as the flyer claims.
There are also some corrections that are less significant but important nonetheless. The budget amount listed in the flyer for the 2020-2021 fiscal year is $1,000 higher than the actual voter-approved budget of $65,175,600. Additionally, based on information compiled by Newsday, the District's 2021-22 budget-to-budget increase was the 9th highest on Long Island, not the 7th as the flyer claims. And the District's 2021-22 tax levy increase, which was within the District's tax cap, was the 17th highest on Long Island, not the 16th highest as the flyer claims (again, based on data compiled by Newsday). Relatively small discrepancies, but we felt they were important enough to address.
It is also important to note that a school district's tax levy will increase when the community has approved school bond construction projects because of the borrowing that the community approves to fund those projects, as the West Hempstead community did in 2016.
We encourage all residents to be educated, informed voters and to utilize actual, verified information, including the information in the Educator, which was mailed to all homes within the district, and the budget materials on the district's website. We also encourage voters to reach out to the district if they have any further questions about the proposed budget."