With additional funds from the state, the Port Washington Board of Education approved the district’s $155 million 2018-19 budget at its meeting on Tuesday.

“I am proud of what we are putting forth tonight,” said board President Karen Sloan.

The only change to the budget from March’s meeting was the addition of $600,000 from the state that was announced earlier this month. Most of this would go to covering new staff hires.

The total budget is $155,938,460, a $4.7 million increase from this year that Assistant Superintendent Mary Callahan said was mostly due to pensions, health insurance and debt service. She said the board anticipated this expense because the district employs close to 1,000 people over the course of a year.

“We are definitely a human resources-rich organization,” she said.

The district had sought $881,000 worth of new hires, but in the end only had the funds to cover $700,000 of that total. Superintendent Kathleen Mooney said the proposed hires would be made based on priority.

Those hires would be a special education teacher for South Salem Elementary, a teacher and a world language instructor for Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School, a math teacher for Schreiber High School and a districtwide bilingual kindergarten teacher.

There would also be an administrator hired for literacy. The total cost of these six hires would be $601,346 out of the $700,000. The remaining $98,000 would go toward the salaries of teachers whom the district expected to retire but did not.

After the budget was covered, the board members thanked each other and thanked the community for helping to secure additional funds from the state. The budget was then unanimously approved by the board, although Vice President Nora Johnson was not present.

The budget will be up for a vote by the public on May 15 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the all-purpose room in Weber.

With the budget out of the way, the board turned its attention to state testing, which has drawn the ire of teachers, students and parents.

The biggest issue was that state testing had been condensed from three days to two, and this had overwhelmed the students, board members said.  Members said it also took away class time from teachers, who had to prepare the students for the state tests and then conduct the testing at a time when finals are approaching.

The board wanted to hold a discussion before drafting a statement for the state, expressing the wish to discontinue the testing which members said was distracting and unnecessary.

“They’re getting worse every year, and their credibility, which started at zero, is now in [the negatives],” said board member Larry Greenstein. “Perhaps we should ask for the resignation of the State Commissioner of Education [MaryEllen Elia].”

Sloan also announced that the district would soon put up its own Facebook page.

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