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Feb 12, 2018 3:30 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach High School And Elementary School Principals Call For Budget Increases

Westhampton Beach High School Principal Chris Herr gives the Board of Education his budget presentation. KATE RIGA
Feb 14, 2018 12:35 PM

The Westhampton Beach high school and elementary school principals are requesting budget increases next year of about 3 and 7 percent, respectively, for the purchase of additional instructional materials.

However, the proposed increases represent just a subset of their overall budgets, since big-ticket items like payroll and employee benefits were not included in their recent presentations.

Still, district officials, who only just started the budgeting process for the 2018-19 school year last week, said they have no plans to pierce the state cap on tax levies—an action that would require that the spending plan receive the approval of at least 60 percent of those voting on it this coming May.

High School Principal Chris Herr attributes his proposed 3 percent bump—which shakes out to almost $30,000—primarily to buying new equipment for existing classes, including broadcast journalism, and new courses, like biomechanics. With the increase, that budget line would increase from $857,971 to $887,493.

He also asked for funding for English as a Second Language, or ESL, textbooks to be used in both the stand-alone and co-taught classrooms, citing the needs of an explosively growing population.

“These increases will meet the needs of the high school and help us continue to do great things as we move along,” he said to conclude his presentation at last week’s Board of Education meeting.

Lisa Slover, the elementary school principal, called for nearly a 6.7 percent increase—or $21,510—in her materials’ budget for next year, which would increase that budget line from $321,951 to $343,461. She explained that the bulk of the requested increase is needed to cover the purchase of new science textbooks and lab materials for her students so her school can meet state standards.

She added that the ESL population could always use more money for staff and equipment, as the elementary school alone now has three co-taught first grade classes. She noted that these students often have a much easier time assimilating and learning English when their instruction begins in the younger grades.

Despite these requested increases, Westhampton Beach Superintendent of Schools Michael Radday does not anticipate the need to pierce the tax cap, set at the highest possible amount of 2 percent this year. “We are still in the early stages of our budget development and everything remains subject to change,” he said in an email. “We’ll know more as we get to see a complete picture of our revenues.

“Our goal is to present a budget to the community that remains below the tax cap,” he continued. “Piercing the cap would be highly unlikely.”

Assistant Superintendent of Business Kathleen O’Hara noted that it is still too early for the school district to provide any numbers of this year’s total budget, or projected tax levy and tax rate. The current year’s budget stands at $56,072,052, requiring a tax levy of $29,133,648. The 2017-18 tax rate was set at $6.26 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

“The Board of Education and District administrators are diligently working to develop a fiscally responsible budget and intend to remain below the tax cap for the 2018-19 school year,” Ms. O’Hara wrote in an email. “The proposed budget will continue to reflect the district’s educational philosophy and to meet the diverse needs of our students.”

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