Port School District adopts budget exceeding tax cap

Port School District adopts budget exceeding tax cap
Paul D. Schreiber High School. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Port Washington Board of Education adopted its $194.5M budget for the 2024-2025 school year Tuesday night, which includes a 4.55% tax levy increase that exceeds the cap and will require a 60% vote of approval from residents.

The total budget amounts to $194,578,217, a $10,312,922 increase from the current school year’s budget - a 5.6% increase.

The board vote for the budget was unanimous among those present. Trustees Emily Beys and Rachel Gilliar were not present for the vote.

The school district was granted a 3.39% tax levy cap but opted to exceed the cap due to a $1,782,800 gap in its budget funds. The tax increase was crafted to fulfill the revenue gap.

The taxes levied by the district are calculated to amount to $161,546,663, which will fund about 83% of the budget.

Due to the district opting to exceed its tax cap, the budget needs to be approved by at least 60% of the voters. The election will be held on May 21.

If the budget does not garner a 60% vote of approval in May,  a second vote will be held on June 18.

For the second vote, three budget options can be presented: the original budget with the 4.55% tax increase, a budget with a 3.39% tax increase that doesn’t exceed the tax cap or a budget with a 0% tax increase.

“A contingent budget would look significantly different from the current budget being proposed to be adopted,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Kathleen Manuel said. “This would mean that you would have to cut over $7 million. There would be no transfer to capital, there would be no expenditures on equipment. You would only have ordinary contingent expenses. This would really begin to dismantle a lot of the programs that the community has worked so hard to put in place.”

School officials said if voters do not approve the budget they would have to make programming and staff cuts.

Only one parent spoke Tuesday night against the tax increase, citing concerns over how it would impact local families.

Despite the budgetary challenges, Superintendent Michael Hynes said the adopted budget with the 4.55% tax increase provides high-quality teaching and learning and funds high-priority initiatives.

The district estimated district spending under the adopted budget would be $32,403 per student - below the local average of $37,541 per student.

School officials said only the Herricks School District at  $28,877 per student spends less per pupil. The other 10 school districts included in their presentation spend more.

The district’s last enrollment report was conducted on April 10 and counted 5,334 students, 58 more than at the same time last year.

The budget includes increases of 2,514,831 in salaries, a $2,909,200 in employee benefits, $2,690,130 in contractual expenses, and $1,944,862 in capital projects.

The district’s staffing is proposed to change under the adopted budget, with two full-time equivalent positions added and 11.5 full-time equivalent positions eliminated.

The proposed additions would be for one social worker at the middle school and one general education teaching position.

Positions that would be eliminated are one pre-K teacher, five pre-K EAs, two administrative positions, one clerical position, one float nurse, one resource room teacher and a part-time ICT psychologist.

Hynes said most of the positions being eliminated would be through attrition.

Regina McClean, president of the Port Washington Teacher’s Association, expressed her support for the budget, saying that alternative budgets with more extensive staff cuts would be “devastating” for students.

“We want you to be aware that the members of the PWTA will work to get out the ‘yes’ votes so that our schools can continue to be appropriately staffed and continue our extracurricular programs for our students,” McClean said.

In light of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed agreement to reimplement its hold harmless policy in foundation aid, Manuel said the district is not anticipating a stark change in its allocated state aid. She said she’s not expecting final numbers for a few more weeks.

Under the governor’s initial state aid proposal, Port Washington was allocated $20,858,822, a $127,308 total decrease from 2023-2024.

Smith said if state aid is greatly different, then a meeting will be held to discuss any changes needed to be made to the budget.

A public hearing on the budget will be held on May 7, which will be the next date the Board of Education convenes.

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