It was far from a typical year for the East Rockaway School District. Students and staff were displaced from their schools for six months, and staff and administrators had to deal with $10 million worth of hurricane damage to the high school and its infrastructure, as well as flood damage at one of the two elementary schools.
And yet, officials came up with a budget for 2013-14 that falls below the maximum allowable tax levy increase, 3.43 percent, without cutting any educational or co-curricular programs or services. District officials credit salary freezes, the responsible use of reserves and fund balances and other cost reductions, as well as state aid, with helping them balance the budget.
Two other propositions are also up for a vote. Proposition 2 would allow the district to use $181,728 from its capital reserve to complete the installation of interactive whiteboards and computer hardware upgrades, among other improvements. Proposition 3 asks voters to approve the use of $200,000 in reserves for building improvements and repairs, including security cameras and parking lot drainage work. These two propositions have no effect on the tax levy.
We believe that East Rockaway’s 3.49 percent budget-to-budget increase of $1.2 million, to $36.8 million, and its admirable tax levy increase make for a spending plan that voters should support. The district’s students have shown that they have what it takes to bounce back. Let’s follow their example by supporting their education.
Re-elect Trustees Ochtera and Nicoletti
Kristin Ochtera and Patti Nicoletti, the Board of Education’s president and secretary, respectively, are both seeking a second term. Ochtera, who has proven to be a strong leader, says that, especially in light of the hurricane and the board’s current search for a superintendent, she feels like she’s just gotten started in the past three years, and she believes the district would benefit from continuity on the board.
And, given Nicoletti’s background in education and her ability to communicate with residents, administrators and fellow trustees, we feel that she, too, should continue her work to help get the district back on its feet.
We encourage challenger Keith Gamace, an educator with the Rockville Centre schools for the past 19 years, to seek a seat on the board in the future. He has strong ideas about improving education and programs, and, at another time, he could be an asset to the board. Challenger Patrick Gillespie did not attend a scheduled endorsement interview.