The Port Washington Board of Education tried to figure how to close a $1.5 million gap Tuesday night as it began discussions about the 2018-19 budget.
“Between now and April, we are looking to reduce our anticipated expenditures or to increase our revenue, and in school districts, it’s very difficult to increase your revenue,” said Assistant Superintendent Mary Callahan, since much of the funding besides taxes comes from the state. “So we listen very carefully to when the governor speaks and hopes that he will give us even more than he proposed in his initial offering.”
The gap, according to Superintendent Kathleen Mooney, comes from an unforeseen rise in health insurance and pension costs.
Callahan added that the district does not have control over those areas when it comes to budgeting.
Health insurance costs will increase by $1.9 million and pensions by $846,700. Callahan said pension costs were up 11 percent.
Board President Karen Sloan indicated that the $328,600 increase in spending on technology might have to be reduced to cover other areas.
In addition to insurance, pensions and tech, salaries are expected to increase by $1.24 million. The different areas add up to a $4.9 million increase in budget, or 3.24 percent.
Callahan said the district was considering hiring additional staff members due to increased enrollment at Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School and Paul D. Schreiber High School. The schools are projected to have 162 and 121 more students, respectively, by the 2022-23 school year.
The $1.5 million gap does not include the added cost of staffing. If the district decides to go through with the proposed hires (about six teachers, one administrator and one groundskeeper), it would cost an additional $881,106 and the budget gap would swell to about $2.4 million.
Sloan said the school might have to hold off on new hires until other rising costs were dealt with.
“The health insurance and pensions really rocked us,” she said.
The board will hold two more budget meetings on Feb. 27 and March 15 to further discuss how to make up the gap.
The board also approved next year’s calendar. The district was given four superintendent conference days by the state, which the students have off, to be used on whatever day the district saw fit. One day that students will have off because of this is Nov. 6, which will allow students to celebrate Diwali.
Conference dates would also be used in February and June to celebrate the Lunar New Year and Eid.