The Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education adopted a $109.6 million budget on April 24. The spending plan includes the eighth-grade Discovery lunchtime lab program as well as highly attended Community Education courses such as yoga, exercise and Mommy & Me that students and community residents wanted reinstated.
After nearly three hours of budget discussions at the board’s April 17 meeting, the trustees decided to reconvene a week later to adopt the budget, which would increase the tax levy by 3.45 percent — the state’s cap for the district. That increase, more than the 2.49 percent hike that was initially proposed, would raise taxes by $3.24 million.
Though the board establishes the tax levy now, it will not vote on it until August, when more detailed calculations can be made.
Trustee Melissa Gates said it was important for the district to establish funding for the future. “We’re not at the top with 3.45 percent — there are many districts above that,” she said. “We need to put ourselves in the best position possible.”
The district was able to absorb the cost of the eighth grade Discovery lunchtime lab, teacher aide support at Franklin Early Childhood Center and Ogden Elementary School, and clerical assistance at Hewlett Elementary School, while reducing the budget $41,852 from the $109,647,534 that was originally reported, through two additional teacher retirements. “The two [retirements] were unexpected and announced in April, after the staffing budgets had been set,” Dr. Peter Weber, assistant superintendent for business, explained. “The delay in setting the budget allowed the board to take advantage of the new information and use the funding to support some budgetary adjustments, while lowering the overall budget increase.”
The board also voted to set aside $10,000 for CPR training for Hewlett High School seniors, as well as $10,000 to print a calendar, which will be discussed at a later date and would be mailed to district residents in the fall. Though the board voted to cease publication of the school calendar in the 2012-13 school year in an effort to go green, the district printed 1,500 copies for residents.
“We always talk about small things that will have ripple effects down the road,” Trustee Scott McInnes said of the CPR training. “Our students could save someone’s life.”
Central Council PTA Co-President Mitchell Greebel said he was concerned that the board had set aside $20,000 for CPR and the calendar without public input. “It was tasteless, especially after how hard the board fought for us,” Greebel said, referring to the board’s decision to spend the money after considering the elimination of adult education and the Discovery program. “It’s not the way the district should run.”
Tacking on the $20,000 also irritated Gibson resident Susan Piperno, who has three children in district schools and fought against the proposed cut to Discovery. “I was upset that we were fighting for Discovery and the board then decided to tack on $20,000 for CPR and calendars,” she said. “… [N]ow is the time to voice my concerns, not at the budget vote.”
John Roblin said he was pleased that the board decided to restore the Discovery program because his son, Nate, takes part after he returns from taking accelerated math at the high school. “I’m happy they approved it because kids would be bored without Discovery,” Roblin said. “I hope the community comes out and passes the budget.”
The budget vote and school board elections will take place on May 21, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., at the Woodmere Education Center, at 1 Johnson Place.