The Port Washington Board of Education 2016-17 school district budget was approved on Tuesday with more than 74 percent of the vote — 2,401 to 823.
The budget calls for a 1.19 percent increase in spending and a .80 percent tax levy increase, which is within the state mandated tax cap.
Port Washington school officials considered piercing the district’s tax cap for the budget before getting the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment payment.
The elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment by the state Legislature the states budget vote provided Port Washington an additional $437,000 this year.
The Gap Elimination Adjustment was first introduced in 2010 to cover a huge budget deficit at public school’s expense. It’s purpose was to help the state fill its revenue shortfall.
“Within that increase we were able to add 11 instructional staff and four security aids,” Assistant Superintendent Mary Callahan said.
Officials said the district budgeted $26,583 per student in the 2015-16 school year, which is what the board expects the district to spend for the 2016-17 budget.
“This can fluctuate from year to year obviously depending upon whether your enrollment is going up or down,” Callahan said. “Whether or not you’ve had larger increases in budget because you’ve increased staffing because you’ve had capital expenditures, debt service that will add to your cost per pupil.”
Superintendent of Schools Kathleen A. Mooney said the school board is seeking to add four elementary teachers, three ESL teachers, one bilingual teacher, and one business teacher at a cost of $827,199.
“We are requesting the five elementary sections, four of which need to be funded,” Mooney said. One of the sections as a result of reducing the pep teachers from three teachers to two teachers. The three ELA teachers that are mandated one will be at the elementary level, one at Weber and one at Shreiber. We must have a position in place for the possibility of a larger kindergarten class. We’re not 100 percent certain that we will hire that position but we must have planned for that position”
Port Washington school officials said are also seeking to increase security by hiring more security guards.
Officials said the cost of an additional security aid will be at $30,000 for an overall increase in security expenses at $120,000.
“Administration presented the board with a budget that was within the levy limit, but also includes a good portion of the staffing,” Mooney said. “We did discuss how that was accomplished because we did reduce increases in other codes.”
“Once the Board of Education realized there was an opportunity with the additional state aid to review all the specific staffing we tried to develop a plan,” Callahan said, adding that after review the board decided to leave cuts in the cost of supplies, such as paper, ink, furniture were to find $400,000 in savings to match the amount received in state aid.
“And the board contribution of another $400,000 to make up what you may remember from our February discussion of $1.2 million in staffing,” Callahan said. “So that’s the overarching way we moved froward very quickly in the past 36 hours.”.
Voters also passed a proposition for the school board to sell five acres of property located in the village of Sands Point, which will be used to reduce the tax levy in future years, officials said.
“The profit would go in to a reserve account which would be used over the next 10 years to reduce the tax levy,” Callahan said.
Callahan said the U.S. Navy gave the Sands Point property, known as the “Middle Neck Road parcel,” to the Port Washington School District.
“The land has actually an interesting history because it was owned by the U.S. Navy. It was used by the Nay during World War two as an outpost to watch for German’s submarines on the coast of Long Island all because there were German submarines,” Callahan said. “After a specific period of time the Navy deeded that over to the school district without any restrictions.”
The property is located on the northern side of Middle Neck Road adjacent to the east side of the Sands Point Preserve entrance road, and, Callahan said, is just shy of five acres.
She said the property is zoned as residential property and if the buyer wants to use it for any other reason they would have to work with the Sands Point Board of Zoning Appeals.
Callahan said the land is only worth what the seller and buyer agree upon, but that it has been appraised at $2,000,000.