Port Washington school district scores no designation in state financial stress report

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The Port Washington School District Board of Education during a meeting. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

The Port Washington Union Free School District passed the recently released state financial stress test, but not by much.

The school district was given a no designation classification indicating that the district was in good financial health.

But the school’s fiscal scoring of 23.3 was just shy of the susceptible rating for which the threshold is 25.

Mary Callahan, the assistant superintendent of business, announced the school’s score at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.

The 23.3 score consists of 8.3 points for the unassigned fund balance, 8.3 points for the overall fund balance, 3.3 for cash to net liabilities and 3.3 for cash to monthly expenditures.

The unassigned fund balance is the number of dollars a school district is allowed to have left over at the end of the year, which can be up to but should not exceed 4 percent of the subsequent year’s budget.

Callahan said the state gave the district an 8.3 rating because their balance was not close to the state’s 4 percent threshold at 2.8 percent.

The overall fund balance takes into consideration the unassigned fund balance as well as specific reserves such as worker’s compensation and liabilities funds.

She said the state rated them at an 8.3 in this area because their fund balance was lower than other districts of similar size.

The requirement for cash to net liabilities and cash for monthly expenditures are difficult to keep up with because financial institutions and the state expectations have different standards for the district’s cash on hand, the assistant superintendent said.

The financial institutions do not want the school districts to have cash on a monthly basis if they to borrow from them but the state wants the district to have more cash available, Callahan said.

She said these ratings are given for informational purposes and the school district is not judged based on their score.

At the meeting, Port Washington School District Superintendent Kathleen Mooney announced proposed staffing changes to the budget, which reflected a $652,000 decrease from when it was originally announced in January.

The changes include removing two math resource teachers at Salem and Daly Elementary Schools, an English as a New Language teacher for Daly Elementary School’s Pre-Kindergarten class, and an ENL teacher at Sousa Elementary School.

ENL teachers typically work with classroom teachers to make language and curriculum materials available to students who are learning English.

A districtwide bilingual kindergarten teacher has been kept in the budget which Mooney said could be funded from a smaller class size at Guggenheim requiring one less teacher.

Positions that were kept in the budget at an additional cost to the school district are ENL and social studies teachers at Weber Middle School, social studies and special education teachers at Schreiber High School and a STEAM teacher at Guggenheim Elementary School.

A STEAM teacher would focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

For central administration, the superintendent announced that the district would no longer seek an additional assistant principal at Schreiber High School and an associate administrator for health and physical education.

She said the district will continue to search for an assistant superintendent for general administration.

Regina Mclean, a member of the Port Washington Teacher’s Association, said the group has not been informed of why there is a need for the assistant superintendent position and that they think the funds allocated for the position should be redirected to the student.

Board of Education President Karen Sloan said the board has been deferring additional help in the central administration for a number of years and it is time for them to address the vacancy this year.

She said it would also be a benefit to students for them to have an additional assistant superintendent.

She did say that budgets for individual schools and other areas need to be looked into further to address the gap of $871,286 between the proposed budget and the expected revenues for the next school year.

Sloan said she would like to propose taking $250,000 from the workers’ compensation reserve fund to address the funding of the additional staff. This will be discussed and looked into further before the next board meeting.

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