Port Washington School District draft budget would override tax levy, require 60% of the vote

Port Washington School District draft budget would override tax levy, require 60% of the vote
The Port Washington School District administration presented their proposed budget plan for the 2024-2025 school year that will be up for adoption April 16th.(Photo courtesy of Port Washington schools)

The Port Washington School District proposed a 2024-2025 school year budget that would require 60% voter approval by the community to override the tax cap by 1.16%. 

In February, the Port Washington School District proposed a 2024-2025 rollover budget that included a 6.8% increase from the current budget.

During Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting Assistant Superintendent for Business Kathleen Manuel printed the district’s official draft budget. 

The 2024-2025 proposed budget calls for $194,578,217 in spending, about a 5.6%, or $10,312,922, increase over the 2023-2024 budget set at $184,265,295. 

While the state has implemented a 2% tax cap on the budget, Manuel explained that the district’s tax levy growth factor is only at 1.02%, meaning that the allowable tax levy to increase is $5,240,635- an increase of 3.39%. 

The 2023-2024 tax levy limit amounted to $154,523,228 while the newly presented tax levy limit would amount to $161,546,663, a 4.55% increase.

This would exceed the allowable tax cap by 1.15%. This would require approval by 60% or more of voters in May.

“We’re landing in terms of the numbers in a place that makes sense in a world of bad choices,” said Trustee Rachel Gilliar. “None of this is our ideal, we wanted to be having conversations about how we could expand our program and improve our program”

“I’m excited that there’s a little bit in here [the proposed budget] that are things that we really needed to improve, given the fiscal cliff and the financial climate I really think that this is a balance in keeping our school intact but also being responsible to the taxpayer as best we can”, said Gilliar.

If the numbers hold and the district does not receive a 60% approval by voters, the school board may adopt a final budget with no growth in the tax levy from the prior year or resubmit the original or revised budget.

If a resubmitted budget is defeated, the district must adopt a final budget with a tax levy that is no greater than the levy of the prior year.

Districts may also pass separate referenda on individual programs which, if they cause the levy to go over the cap, would each need to receive a 60 percent vote to pass.” 

Manuel attributed the budget increase to several fiscal challenges including, a minimal increase to state foundation aid, increases in health insurance premium rates over 10%, increases to employee retirement system contributions of 19%, an increase to transportation costs of 15% and the second year of an increase in general insurance premiums by 18%. 

Manuel presented two scenarios at the prior March 19 Board of Education meeting. The board consensus was to accept the first scenario to exceed the tax cap.

This proposed budget reduces expenditures by $2,127,483. Additionally, it cut the positions of 9.5 full-time employees. 

It includes additional expenditures to address students’ mental health and class sizes with the addition of 2.0 full-time employees.

According to Tuesday night’s budget presentation, the proposed budget is expected to ensure that staffing levels meet the educational needs of students by continuing support for elementary literacy and new mathematics programs, continuing support of Pre-K, PEP, CTE, Twilight, and ICT programs; and supporting the district’s commitment to provide devices, tools, and infrastructure necessary for technology-enhanced teaching and learning.

Funds will be maintained at the same level as the previous year for field trips and clubs, in addition to funding made available for a summer music program for district residents and funds for a 55-passenger bus. 

Although the proposed budget has additions, additional reductions include prioritizing juniors and seniors in the twilight program, reducing Pre-K from five sections to four, as well as reducing Pre-K buses back to two as in previous years. 

For residents, assuming the assessed values remain flat, the estimated tax rate amounts to $1,703.91, an estimated yearly difference of $207 for the average household. These numbers are based on a house assessed at $1.1 million in Port Washington. 

The Port Washington School District is estimated to receive $20,268,574 in 2024-2025 under Gov. Kathy Hochul’s state aid proposal. This is a 5.56% increase from the district’s state aid last year of $19,201,487. State aid official numbers have not been finalized.

As of March 27, the Port Washington School District has an enrollment of 5,335 which is 65 more students than last year. 

The board will reconvene on April 16 where the proposed budget is presumed to be adopted. There will be a budget public hearing on May 7 and a budget Q&A on May 9.

The annual budget vote is on May. 21 from 6. a.m. to 9 p.m. at Weber Middle School. 

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