East Williston ed board reveals $61M preliminary budget

East Williston ed board reveals $61M preliminary budget
East Williston Superintendent Elaine Kanas, left, and board of education president Mark Kamberg, pictured in 2019, put forth a plan to have all students in school, pending approval by the governor. (Photo by Jed Hendrixson)

The East Williston Board of Education has unveiled the district’s $61 million preliminary budget.

At the first of five budget meetings last Wednesday night at the Wheatley School, the board reviewed administrative, capital and program components of the budget, which remained below the property tax levy cap despite a 2.89 percent increase from last year’s budget.

The proposed budget — $61,744,103 — is a nearly $1.7 million increase from last year’s $60,007,038 adopted spending plan, and the district is projected to again spend close to 98 percent of the current budget, according to the board.

The district reaches that 98 percent spending mark consistently, Board President Mark Kamberg said, and auditors often remark on the strength of the district’s budget projections.

Superintendent Elaine Kanas estimated the district would enroll 1,749 students in K-12 classes at all three schools, amounting to around $35,300 per pupil in total district expenditures.

More than half of the budget, 58.4 percent at nearly $36 million, is dedicated to salaries for district staff, a 2 percent increase from last year’s accepted budget.

The largest change between last year’s and this year’s proposal is textbook spending, up just over 11 percent across the district. That number continues to grow from year to year, Kamberg said, pointing out that there seems to be no consistent rate associated with the yearly increase.

Licensing fees for textbooks, in hard copy and digital, have continued to increase, according to Assistant Superintendent for personnel Danielle Gately, and the district will replace worn-out or outdated textbooks as needed, Assistant Superintendent for Business Diane Castonguay added.

The board is also proposing the creation of a new capital reserve fund for future district improvement projects. The 2019 proposal would be paid off over the course of seven years and be capped at $5.5 million, according to Kanas.

The district is also planning to allocate funds from the three current capital reserves to make improvements to its three schools.

At the North Side School, the district is currently in the early stages of deciding how and with what to replace the school’s slate roof, which often requires expensive maintenance, Castonguay said. Funding is also being allocated for security vestibule improvements and field renovations.

The Willets Road and Wheatley schools will both receive upgrades in the form of door replacements and air-conditioned window units, while Wheatley will have auditorium renovations.

Wednesday’s budget meeting is the first of five presentations spanning the months of February and March. The fifth and final deliberation and adoption of the budget is scheduled for March 25 at 7:30 p.m.

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