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2017-18 Budget Discussions Begin

During the January 24 Board of Education meeting, the Port Washington School District administration presented the latest data on district enrollment and how the increasing student population is shaping the 2017-18 budget development process.

Student population districtwide has increased by 7.4 percent since the 2010-11 school year with the overall elementary enrollment up 9 percent (223 more students), middle school enrollment up 8 percent (+94) and the high school enrollment up 5 percent (+54). The trend has been for additional students to enroll in the Port Washington schools throughout the academic year, so there is a tendency for annual enrollment numbers to increase after the start of the school year.

Preliminary staffing discussions at the January 24 Board of Education meeting for the 2017-18 budget focused on a review of student-to-administrator ratios. Currently, the Port Washington UFSD has a student-to-administrator ratio of 243:1, which is significantly higher than comparable districts in the immediate area, the closest being 25 percent lower at 182:1. In light of this data, district administration has proposed the creation of an Early Literary Associate Administrator position for Pre-K to second-grade students and the restoration of an elementary assistant principal position to be shared between the district’s two most heavily populated elementary schools: Guggenheim and Sousa.

“As we prioritize our students’ needs, it is important to address the most critical years of literacy development, particularly in response to the demands required in reading and writing,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathleen Mooney. “The Early Literacy Associate Administrator position will significantly strengthen the coordination of literacy instruction to a greater number of primary aged students, now, and in future years. The restoration of an elementary assistant principal will be invaluable in providing adequate oversight for all student services at our two largest elementary schools while allowing us to reallocate resources to benefit all students.”

In addition, it was noted that there are 382 more students enrolled in the Port Washington schools than in 2010, when the district had a full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching staff of 481.3; presently, there are 480.9 FTE teachers. However, in the 2011-12 school year, district staffing was reduced by 17.7 FTEs to meet the tax cap. Last year, the Board was able to add 11.3 FTEs, meet the class size policy and propose a budget within the tax cap. While the district has been able to maintain the Board’s class size policy, it has become increasingly difficult with the rising enrollment and the implementation of the New York State property tax cap. As a result, additional FTE positions are being considered as the budget process continues.

The Board of Education Budget and Facilities subcommittee is scheduled to meet on Monday, February 6, 8:15 a.m., at the Daly Annex. A committee update and further budget discussions will take place during regular public meetings. The next Board of Education public meeting is scheduled for February 7, 8:00 p.m., at Schreiber High School. The meetings are posted on the district’s online and printed calendar. All residents are invited to attend.

“It’s important to begin the conversations now, and we encourage residents to join us in this process,” said Board of Education President Karen Sloan. “We want everyone to be fully aware of the financial constraints before us, and how together we can overcome these challenges and meet the needs of all Port students.”