West Hempstead projects slight increase in new budget

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Superintendent Patricia Sullivan-Kriss proposed a 2018-19 budget that contained a slight increase over the current spending plan at the West Hempstead Union Free School District Board of Education meeting on March 6. The district proposed a budget of a little more than $61 million, an increase of 1.9 percent, which the district hopes will support new programs such as Success in Technology, Library, Literacy, Artistry and Research, also known as STELLAR.

“We plan to have more performance-based learning and researching going on in grades four through six in our intermediate center,” Sullvan-Kriss said.

The district also hopes to strengthen ST Math, a visual program for kindergarten through six grade that builds a deep understanding of math through rigorous learning and creative problem solving.

“It’s a new math support program that [Daniel] Rehman” — the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction — “and the teachers have been looking at and have started to pilot it this year, and we’re very excited about that,” Sullivan-Kriss said. “It’s almost like a self-paced math program for our students to reinforce their learning.”

Sullivan-Kriss added that the district’s proposed budget would also include more educational programs on coding. The main program the district would like to add is kidOYO, an online program that focuses on computer science and engineering for children in all grades.

“That’s another exciting venue for us, because the world of coding is where it’s at with our students these days, and we need to be addressing that,” Sullvan-Kriss said.

The tax levy, or the total amount that the district must collect to meet expenses, for the 2018-19 school year will be roughly $45.6 million, an increase of 2.31 percent.

“We are advised strongly by our auditors to craft budgets that do go to the 2 percent levy limit,” Sullivan-Kriss said. “We’re advised to do that to safeguard for future budgets because the tax cap, in large part, is based upon the [Consumer Price Index], and therefore it’s a moving target. You never know what the percentage increase could be in any given year.”

State aid for 2018-19 is projected at nearly $10.8 million, an increase of 4.67 percent over the current budget.

“There is a real growing sentiment among our legislators that they have taken very good care of the educational systems in the state of New York, sometimes to the detriment of other systems such as health care,” Sullivan-Kriss said. “I think there is a reality proving that our legislators have been pretty supportive of education.”

“As the business official, [I] do believe that this is a well-crafted budget that will support our students’ education,” said Assistant Superintendent Emmanuel Glasu, who helped to prepare the proposal.

As for facility maintenance, the district has $600,000 to use either to install air-conditioning in the high school auditorium or refurbish the high school’s kitchen. The $600,000, Sullivan-Kriss explained, would be allocated in the 2019-20 budget to complete funding for whichever project the board chooses to pursue.

The district will present its final spending proposal at a hearing on May 8, at 7:30 p.m., in the high school’s videoconference room.