East Williston state aid increases, school start times to change

East Williston state aid increases, school start times to change
East Williston business students shake hands with Superintendent Danielle Gately and Board President Mark Kamberg at a meeting Monday night. (Photo by Taylor Herzlich)

The East Williston School District received a $36,000 bump in state aid under the recently approved state budget compared to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s initial proposal, Deputy Superintendent Diane Castonguay said at a budget hearing Monday night.

The district was originally proposed to receive $7,367,010 in state aid, a $293,211 increase from the 2023-2024 state aid of $7,073,799.

The additional aid will be used to lower the tax levy from 3.74% to 3.68%, Castonguay said. This tax levy is below the state tax cap of 3.79%, she said.

“We feel that the programs and the activities and the learning opportunities that vary for all students…are maintained in this budget,” Castonguay said. “We’ve also continued layers of academic and social-emotional support for all students at all levels.”

The state Legislature adopted the 2024-2025 $237 billion state budget nearly three weeks late in April.

The budget included an additional $1.3 billion in school aid and the restoration of the foundation aid Hold Harmless policy, which ensures schools’ foundation aid does not decrease from the year before.

The state budget adoption came after months of pushback from school administrators.

Many districts across North Shore Nassau County lamented the eradication of Hold Harmless, saying the change in aid and high insurance and pension costs produced tight budgets with higher tax levies.

The proposed 2024-2025 East Williston budget is $71,177,806, which represents a 3.32%, or $2,288,530 increase, from the adopted 2023-2024 budget of $68,889,276.

The majority of district revenue will come from the proposed tax levy, which is $61,374,153. The tax levy is up $2,179,547 from the 2023-2024 levy of $59,194,606.

As of February, 1,601 students are enrolled in the district. Administration expects district enrollment to increase to 1,607 in the 2024-2025 school year, making per pupil spending $44,292.35.

The rising cost of employee benefits and health insurance are two main factors in the overall budget increase, the deputy superintendent said.

The proposed budget includes three new science labs funded through the capital reserve, Project Adventure courses for students, a district-wide security audit, an additional school psychologist, technology upgrades, artificial intelligence software offerings, increased academic competitions and more, Castonguay said.

The budget is up for vote May 21 along with the election of two trustees and two other propositions.

The first proposition residents will vote on is the adoption of the budget.

The second proposition is the transfer of a leftover balance of about $650,000 from the 2015 capital reserve fund into the 2023 capital reserve fund, Castonguay said.

The third proposition is the transfer of a leftover balance from the 2019 capital reserve fund to be used for capital projects, including the replacement of the North Side School roof and auditorium renovations at The Wheatley School, Castonguay said.

Residents can vote on the propositions and two trustees May 21 at The Wheatley School gymnasium from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The board announced that the school start times in the district will change for the fall 2024 semester. The changes will give Wheatley students more time to sleep in, Castonguay said.

“All the buildings talked about the impact of these new times and at Wheatley, we’re going to be able to manage all the athletics, the clubs,” Superintendent Danielle Gately said. “It should not hinder the students participating and if anything, we were able to work it out so that we can just take advantage of all the opportunities.”

The Wheatley School currently starts at 7:50 a.m. with a 2:26 p.m. dismissal. In the fall, school will begin at 8:25 a.m. with a 2:55 p.m. dismissal.

Changes to Willets Road School and North Side School will not be as drastic.

Willets Road School currently begins at 7:55 a.m. with a 2:50 p.m. dismissal. In the fall, school will begin at 7:50 a.m. with a 2:30 p.m. dismissal.

North Side School currently begins at 9 a.m. with a 3:15 p.m. dismissal. In the fall, school will begin at 9:05 a.m. with a 3:20 p.m. dismissal.

During the time allotted for public comments, one resident questioned the board on its policies governing how it responds to resident complaints at these public meetings.

The resident said she first became outspoken at board meetings last year. She claimed she questioned an administrator about responsive classrooms at a meeting last year and the next day, that same administrator called her about an incident involving her son kicking a water bottle at school that occurred 16 days before the phone call.

The resident said she believes that phone call was telling her to not ask questions at board meetings.

The resident said she feels like she is “back in former Soviet Union” and has spoken to an attorney.

“We just simply ask that we don’t talk about students [at board meetings]. We don’t talk about our own students. We don’t talk about staff,” Mark Kamberg, president of the Board of Education, said. “It’s really to protect everybody as a whole.”

The district council said administration follows all of the district policies when addressing complaints.

The board also honored students for their achievements in business, physics and Italian poetry at recent school competitions.

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here