Port residents head to polls for May 16 school election

Port residents head to polls for May 16 school election
Two Port Washington Board of Education members are running for re-election unopposed in the May 16 school election. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Port Washington residents will be heading to the polls Tuesday to vote in the Port Washington Union Free School District election.

Voting will take place on May 16 from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. in the all purpose room at Weber Middle School.

To be eligible to vote, individuals must be a citizen of the United States, 18 years of age or older, a resident of the Port Washington Unione Free School District for at least 30 days before the vote and be a registered voter. Voter registration must be completed by May 11 to vote in the election.

Eligible residents will be voting on a proposition to adopt the district’s 2023-2024 budget and for two trustees on the district’s board of education.

The Port Washington Board of Education adopted a 2023-2024 budget of $184,265,295 with a 2.63% tax levy increase.

The newly adopted budget is increasing by 5.39%, compared to the district’s 2022-2023 budget established at $174.8 million.

The tax levy for 2023-2024 is $154.5 million, a 2.63% increase from the prior tax levy of $150.6 million.

The district’s current enrollment is estimated at 5,273 students, according to the last enrollment report provided at the board’s May 2 meeting. This is 40 more students than the district had at the same time last year, according to Assistant Superintendent Christopher Shields.

Based on the most recent enrollment numbers provided by the district, the 2023-2024 budget would approximate $34,945 in spending per pupil.

“Given the current economic climate and where things are, we really have a budget that everyone should be very proud of,” BOE President Adam Smith said during an April 18 meeting when the board adopted the budget.

Two BOE trustees’ seats are up for election as well, with both members Julie Epstein and Rachel Gilliar running for re-election unopposed.

School board member responsibilities include developing the school’s budget, creating strategic partnerships with community stakeholders, hiring and evaluating the superintendent, setting the direction of the school district and supporting a healthy school district culture, according to the New York State School Boards Association.

Board members serve three-year terms. The two terms for the offices up for re-election this year will start ​​July 1 and end June 30, 2026.

Epstein is currently completing her first term as a board member.

She began her work in the district by working on various Home School Associations, including serving as president of the association at South Salem Elementary. The association is responsible for building a partnership between parents, teachers and administration within the district.

Epstein said that during her work on these associations, she learned a lot about the inner-workings of the district by attending various meetings and helped foster a connection with the district’s Board of Education.

“It seemed like a natural step for me to go into the Board of Education,” Epstein previously told Blank Slate.

Epstein said she is running again because she wants to continue helping move the school district forward.

She added that if re-elected, her goal is to work with the board with the intent to serve the school district and its students to the highest degree, being proactive rather than reactive. She said she has no special interests but wants to work for the students and their district.

“I have enjoyed my time on the board and it has been one of the greater challenges I have had in my life and I appreciate how it challenges me to think and see things from new and different perspectives,” Epstein said. “I do look forward to continuing that and I look forward to having my colleagues challenge me, the community challenge us and we all move forward for great growth and achievement within our Port Washington School District.”

Gilliar, who has four children in the Port Washington School District, is running for her third term on the board, having joined in 2017. She said she was raised in a household that valued civic engagement and education, making it a matter of time before she joined the Board of Education.

“I really just wanted to contribute to making our education here in Port Washington as good as it could be,” Gilliar previously told Blank Slate.

She said her goals for a potential new term have been consistent throughout her tenure on the board, one of which is actively working on fostering a beneficial relationship between parents and the district.

“I don’t think that relationship should ever be adversarial,” Gilliar said. “I think parents have an absolute right to advocate for their kids as long as they do it in a way where it’s respectful of the professionals who are educating their children.”

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