Port Washington school officials said Tuesday they were seeking to increase security by hiring more security guards — a proposal that drew support from Port Washington Police Department Deputy Chief Robert DelMuro but raised questions of residents concerned about the school budget.
“These individuals are trained professionals who have retired from police work and I think what we are doing is giving our children the gift of time,” Port Washington School District Assistant Superintendent Mary Callahan said.
Callahan said school officials believe the cost will not be an issue in the overall budget.
“I think this is a very small price we are asking the community to pay,” Callahan said, putting the cost of an additional security aid at $30,000 and an overall increase in security expenses at $120,000,
DelMuro said he agreed that there was a need for more officers to patrol the schools.
“I’m in favor of the hiring of the extra security guards. I think they are a very key in the safety of the schools,” DelMuro said. “They assist us and have worked well with us for many, many years. I think they’re a big asset and speaking for the police department we appreciate you hiring these people. They help us out a lot and think it’s going to be a good addition.”
But Dave Sattinger, a Port Washington public school parent, said he doesn’t believe right now is the best time to hire additional security when the school district is considering a budget that pierces the state-mandated tax cap and has been placed on a fiscally stressed list by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
“We’re the only school in the region on the fiscally stressed list,” Sattinger said. “We’re looking at piercing the cap. We’ve just got to have better financial management and while I appreciate security is an important issue at this point in time we as a district don’t have the resources for it and we also don’t have the resources for the additional operations manager we’re looking for. If we want to get more security guards, which I appreciate why we would want to do that I would suggest we wait another year and secure some of the new construction sites by using bond money to hire them at that point.”
“Frank J. Russo, president of the Port Washington Education Assembly, said officials should look into consolidating the class sizes in order to make room in the budget to hire the staffing they need.
“I just want to make some comments over a budget I know you’re not considering very seriously at this point that would meet the tax cap,” Russo said.
According to Russo, at Paul D. Schrieber High School there are 130 regular classes with 19 or fewer students.
He suggested the board look into consolidating those classes instead of the elementary grades.
“All studies that I’ve seen show that class size is critical for lower elementary grades, as you get higher in grades it’s less critical,” Russo said. “I want to make sure you look at those class sizes”
He also said he thinks the district will receive more state aid.
“We need better contracts and better financial management to resolve our problems,” Russo said. “We don’t have to break the tax cap in spite of the fact that I know your considering doing it. But I hope sincerely it’s not necessary.”
Officials said that after much review they would have to override the budget in order to meet the state requirement for ESL teachers.
“Regardless of whether we override the tax cap or not we still have to find funding for the three ESL teachers because the regulations require it,” said Port Washington School District Superintendent Kathleen Mooney.
She also said if they aren’t able to pierce the tax cap they will have no choice but to consolidate.
“We do not want to have to do this,” Mooney said. “We may have to look at other class sections in all of the schools and potentially reallocate and consolidate in other places in order to bring relief to schools that may be far exceeding what the board policy will be.”
Officials said residents with concerns and questions could email member on the board. The next budget meeting will be on March 21.