The Port Washington Union Free School District Board of Education hosted a community forum town hall meeting to outline its goals, share enrollment data and state aid numbers, and discuss its actions and possible steps residents can take to advocate for a more fair percentage of state aid for the district.
Approximately 120 residents, as well as state Sen. Elaine Phillips, came to the Nov. 8 forum held at Paul D. Schreiber High School.
The Legislative Task Force shared recent figures regarding home sales and the district’s escalating enrollment, which is contrary to islandwide trends, including most neighboring school districts. Since the implementation of the state Tax Levy Cap, Port Washington’s enrollment has increased by 6.2 percent.
The Task Force revealed that state aid accounts for approximately 6 percent of Port Washington’s total revenues, with the statewide average being 41.6 percent for school districts. One major factor is the state’s combined wealth ratio used to determine foundation aid levels and its failure to recognize Port Washington’s economic diversity.
One of the goals of the Board of Education and Legislative Task Force is to secure the district’s fair share of foundation aid by encouraging state lawmakers to base the formula on median wealth rather than mean. They are also advocating for a revision in the tax cap calculation to account for increasing enrollment. Enrollment increases is not among the current exemptions used to calculate a district’s respective tax cap.
“There is no question that we have faced some difficult challenges based on the financial shortfalls presented to us,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathleen Mooney said. “We continue to deliver one of the highest-quality instructional programs for our children.”
Mooney reviewed measures the district has taken to contain costs, including cutting some non mandated programs while reducing spending in other non mandated programs and staggering bus schedules.
She also touched on program enhancements, some of which are required to meet new educational standards in areas such as English language arts, mathematics and, more recently, science.
She also assured residents that steps are in place to maintain a quality program in Port Washington.
Following the Task Force’s presentation, members fielded questions from the community, with some residents inquiring about what can be done to address the present challenges.
Task Force members encouraged residents to stay informed of the issues facing Port Washington schools and to participate in efforts to ensure the state treats the district fairly. This includes writing to local elected government officials to advocate for the district and the Task Force’s goals.
“The stronger our voice becomes, the greater the possibility things can change in our favor,” Karen Sloan, Port Washington Board of Education president and Legislative Task Force member, said. “No matter the financial hurdle, we will keep moving forward to provide the best education possible. The children of this community will always be our priority.”