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Feb 12, 2013 2:54 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach School Board Holds First Of Several Budget Hearings

Feb 13, 2013 12:42 PM

The Westhampton Beach Board of Education heard the first two of several department budget proposals for the 2013-14 fiscal year on Monday night, kicking off what is shaping up to be a difficult budget cycle for the district.

As part of their regularly scheduled meeting, board members listened as High School Principal Chris Herr pitched his building’s proposed budget of $796,857 for next year, a plan that would increase spending by just 1.86 percent over this year’s $782,298 budget. Officials also heard from Assistant Superintendent for Business Kathleen O’Hara, who presented next year’s proposed $1,745,394 transportation budget, which represents a roughly 1.2 percent decrease from the current year’s $1,767,011 transportation line.

“I think our building administrators recognize this is a difficult fiscal time,” said Schools Superintendent Michael Radday in an interview after the meeting. “The budgets they prepared for next year reflect an understanding of the financial reality.”

Last spring, Westhampton Beach adopted a $51.8 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, a plan that included a $26.3 million tax levy—one that was 2.89 percent higher than the previous year’s $25.6 million levy—and pierced the state’s new cap on the tax levy. As a result, at least 60 percent of district taxpayers had to sign off on the spending plan, which they did last May.

District officials, who previously said they will try not to pierce the cap again this year, will hold several budget presentations over the next two months before adopting a final budget in April. The adopted plan will be put to a public vote on May 21. The next budget presentation will be on Monday, February 25, at 7 p.m., in the high school library and will focus on buildings and grounds, athletics, special education and the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES.

During his presentation, Mr. Herr included in his packet to board members a second budget figure of $829,932, one that would increase overall spending at the high school by about 6 percent next year, and includes an estimated $33,000 upgrade to one of the building’s computer labs. But district officials expect these upgrades to be tabled for another year, adding that they will revisit the issue when they discuss the technology department budget in a few weeks.

Without the computer lab, Mr. Herr is proposing increases to only four lines in his budget: math and foreign language textbooks, the nurses’ office and field trip transportation costs. The largest increase would be for math textbooks, which would jump by nearly 50 percent, or from $6,905 this year to $13,230 next year. The increase is needed, Mr. Herr explained, so the school can purchase actual textbooks, and not computer programs that require the continual payment of fees.

He is also asking the board to increase the field trip transportation budget by $4,000, from $21,000 this year to $25,00 next year. In response, board members asked if there was a way to trim this figure and even suggested the elimination of school transportation for certain excursions, like music department trips. Mr. Herr is also asking for an additional $349, or $4,325 total, to buy new foreign language textbooks and an additional $140, or $815 total, to resupply the nurses’ office.

“This is my fifth year doing a budget presentation,” Mr. Herr said on Tuesday. “Every year the board is supportive and receptive—there were no questions out of the ordinary and the presentation to the board was all requests from the high school.

“I think we put together a fairly responsible budget,” he continued. “We will wait to see in the coming weeks, as the board moves through the process, if there will be any changes to the high school proposal.”

During Ms. O’Hara’s transportation budget presentation, board member James Hulme surprised a few people when he suggested that the district investigate reducing the number of morning and afternoon buses provided by the district. He also said one option could be increasing the distance that students must live from a school to qualify for public transportation.

According to Mr. Radday, school policy now dictates that students in grades one through five qualify for bus service if they live more than one mile from the elementary school, and students in grades six through 12 qualify if they live more than 1.5 miles from the middle and high schools. But he also noted that state policy requires only that the district offer bus service to students in grades one through eight if they live at least two miles from their school, and that distance goes up to three miles for students in grades 9-12.

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Can we do any decreases? Increasing in buses and building? When was the last time the bus contract was bid out? Audited? or do they have a lock for life?
By realistic (472), westhampton on Feb 13, 13 7:27 AM
... trade in the laptops and use Ipads instead. They are half the price of a laptop and do the same thing. Wouldn't the district save close to a million dollars doing this?
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Feb 13, 13 3:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
How much is spent on the laptops? Does every student need one?
By sag runner (24), Easthampton on Feb 14, 13 10:19 PM