$56.7 million budget proposal, capital reserve on East Williston schools budget

James Galloway

The East Williston School District ballot on Tuesday will include votes on its $56.7 million budget proposal, two capital reserve measures and two uncontested seats to sit on the district’s Board of Education.

The proposed budget would increase spending by 1.68 percent, or about $938,000, over the current 2014-15 budget. The tax levy would increase by 1.8 percent to $53.1 million.

In her weekly newsletter, Superintendent Elaine Kanas said both increases were the district’s lowest in 20 years. The board unanimously adopted the proposed budget on March 30.

In addition to the budget, one capital reserve referendum would allow the district to make repairs using funds from its 2013 reserve, while the second would allow the district to form a new reserve with a five-year lifespan and $3.5 million cap plus interest.

Board of Education Trustees Robert Fallarino and Leonard Hirsch are also running for re-election unopposed.

The proposed budget maintains current course offering and expands STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — programming.

It would fund the creation of a robotics program at Willets Road Schoool, increased coding opportunities, more Chromebooks and enhanced wireless capability at North Side, staff development and further implementation of Project Lead the Way, an applied problem solving curriculum.

It would also restore fifth grade intramurals and increase fifth grade English Language Arts instruction to a two-block period per day from 1.5 blocks, which middle school principal Stephen Kimmel said would bring the district in line with others middle schools.

“Right now, you’re seeing a very good functioning East Williston School District,” Board of Education President Mark Kamberg said. “I think the Board of Education works well together and as a result we’re able to accomplish the things we need to for the children of East Williston School District.”

The first capital reserve measure would, if approved, allow the district to expend the remaining $2 million in its 2013 capital reserve to replace unit ventilators, install steam control valves, replace DDC panels and remove existing windows to install of Dual sash, low E single glazed windows.

The second capital reserve measure would create a new reserve with a five-year lifespan and $3.5 million maximum to fund bathroom reconstruction, flooring replacement and abatement, tennis court reconstruction, exterior door replacement and kitchen ventilation reconstruction, among other projects, which would need to be approved by voters.

The fund would be filled by any unused funds from the prior fiscal year.

“The capital reserve tool is an amazing opportunity to fund large construction repairs and projects using unspent funds from budget years,” Kamberg said. “The public supported it back in 2013. We’re again asking the public to allow us the creation of another reserve, continuing again to use unspent funds in budget years [and] allowing large construction projects to continue without additional new costs to the taxpayers.”

Kamberg said capital reserves reduce costs for the district by avoiding the bond interest payments and counsel costs that coincide with borrowing.

The budget proposal would continue to cut away at the district’s debt. Since the 2011-12 year, the district has decreased its debt burden from $17.9 million to about $11.2 million, according to the district’s Financial Advisory Committee.

“Because you’re stabilizing your budget as the bonds roll off…you’re able to use the funds that once went to cover the expense of the bond and put that back into the needs that directly impact the children,” Kamberg said

Fallarino, the board’s vice president and a medical malpractice attorney, will be seeking his third term.

“I came on at a time where there was a lot of flux in the community and there were a lot of issues, and I think what I helped bring was a vision and stability,” said Fallarino, who has two sons in the East Williston school system. “And now I want to do that for the future, and make sure the 2 percent [property tax] cap doesn’t negatively affect the students.”

Hirsch, who grew up in East Williston and works as the chief financial officer of a New York investment fund, was first elected to the board in 2012. He had previously served on the district’s financial advisory committee.  

“It’s been a very good experience. I think we’re in a pretty good place right now, and I have personally been able to bring some value to the board,” he said, noting his experience as an accountant.  

He said he is a voracious reader and looks for any small way he can contribute to the school district while sifting through “all the data that comes my way.”

“I (always) think there’s more to do, more to learn — there may be one small thing the school may not have considered,” he said.  

Hirsch added that the current East Williston board members collaborate as an effective team.

“We work well together…. there’s been no drama whatsoever from what I’ve experienced,” he said. “It’s been excellent and I just want to keep moving forward in that direction.”

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19 at the Wheatley School gymnasium.

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