East Williston vote on $54.38M budget

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Residents of the East Williston School District will head to the polls to cast ballots on Tuesday, May 21 voting on a proposed $54.38 million budget for 2013-14, a budget proposition to establish a capital projects fund and two school board seats being sought by incumbent trustees David Keefe and Barbara Slone in an uncontested race,

The budget, a 3.14 percent increase over the $52.72 million budget for 2012-13, calls for the elimination of nine positions, including two teachers, to curb district costs. The projected 2013-14 district tax levy is $50.97 million, a 3.21 percent increase over the current $49.38 million budget. That increase is under the state-mandated tax cap, according to Jacqueline Fitzpatrick, assistant superintendent for business.

“Everyone working together, we came up with a budget that is workable with the least impact on the students,” board Vice President Robert Fallorino said.

Fitzpatrick has said the elimination of the nine positions would save $800,000 in salaries and benefits. The positions to be eliminated include two teaching positions, five teaching assistants, a custodian and an audio-visual clerical position. The district is also realizing a savings of $400,00 based on eight teachers in the district’s elementary and secondary schools accepting retirement incentives of $20,000 each, according to Fitzpatrick.

Voters will also be considering a budget proposition to establish a capital projects fund of no more than $3 million over the next five years. The East Williston Board of Education put that proposition on the ballot based on the recommendation of the eight-member Financial Advisory Committee.

“I think it’s a smart way to fund major districtwide physical projects without the additional expense of bond-related interest counsel costs,” board President Mark Kamberg said at the April meeting when the board approved the proposed budget and voted to put the capital projects fund on the May 21 ballot.

In a presentation at the board’s April 3 meeting, Financial Advisory Committee spokesman Steve Leccese said the committee recommends the board commit its current 2012-13 budget of $785,000 to seed the capital reserve fund.

In response to another recommendation from the Financial Advisory Committee, the school board increased a capital maintenance line in the 2013-14 budget from $225,000 to $525,00.

Last year, voters passed the East Williston district budget by a 2-1 margin with a modest turnout of 658 voters casting ballots in favor of it and 295 opposed. The $52.72 million 2012-13 budget represented a 2.49 percent increase and the tax levy rose by 2.60 percent.

Keefe and Slone are unopposed in seeking re-election to their respective board seats. Both are completing their first three-year terms on the board. They won their seats in uncontested elections the first time around.

Keefe retired from a 37-year career as a middle school social studies teacher in the Hempstead School District in 2004. He has served as the retired teacher board member on the board of directors for the state teacher retirement system since 2004. He will complete his third term on that board this year and is seeking re-election to another term.

“The board as it’s presently constituted is a good smooth-running board. It works well together,” Keefe said when he announced his intention to seek re-election. “I enjoy doing it. I think I bring something positive to the board.” 

Slone has been chief nurse practitioner at the Newborn Intensive Care Unit of Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola since 2004. 

She has also served as a mentor for neonatal nurse practitioners students at SUNY Stony Brook since 1995.

“I really enjoy doing the community service and it’s a very good group of people. It’s a good core of people who’ve been working together for the past three years,” Slone said.

The East Williston School District currently has 1,736 students with an average cost per student of $31,325. The district has 188 teachers who draw an average annual salary of $106,000.

Voting in the school district will be held on May 21 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the gymnasium in The Wheatley School.

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