Westhampton Beach School District Adopts Budget

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The Westhampton Beach School Board adopted a $46.5 million operating budget for the 2008-2009 school year on Monday night, a spending plan that, if approved by taxpayers this May, will increase overall district spending by almost 8 percent next year.

If the spending plan is approved, school property taxes are expected to climb almost 2.4 percent next year. The district tax rate, which is only an estimate at this time, is expected to increase from $4.67 per $1,000 of assessed value to $4.78 per $1,000, according to district officials. Therefore, a home assessed at $700,000 will absorb a $77 increase in taxes next year, according to Westhampton Beach Schools Superintendent Lynn Schwartz.

“This is a modest increase in tax rates,” Mr. Schwartz said.

School Board members adopted their spending plan 6-0 during Monday night’s meeting, in spite of some lingering questions on the co-curricular strings program raised by member Clint Greenbaum.

On Tuesday, Mr. Greenbaum explained that the after-school program at the elementary school, which will cost $6,600, has been included in next year’s budget. He added that he was concerned that the strings program could dilute the elementary school’s band program. He added that, in his opinion, it would be better for the school to have one solid program instead of two “so-so” music programs.

Taxpayers will get to vote on the board-endorsed spending plan on Tuesday, May 20. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. in the large group instruction room at Westhampton Beach High School. Mr. Schwartz noted that the polls will be open earlier this year in order to meet the needs of the community. Last year, they were only open from 1:30 to 9 p.m.

A large portion—or 48 percent of the proposed $3.4 million increase in total expenditures—can be attributed to financing ongoing renovations to the middle school, according to Mr. Schwartz. He explained that there has been an increase in debt service for the $16.5-million project, which was approved by district taxpayers in 2005.

The district intends to make a $1,632,623 payment on that bond in next year’s budget. This will be the district’s first payment on the bond, which falls under its 2008-2009 capital budget. Overall, the capital budget is set to increase by 25.7 percent next year, from $6.87 million this year to $8.64 million next year.

If the payment for the middle school project was not included in the budget, overall spending would be increasing by only 4.1 percent next year, which is a touch above inflation, Mr. Schwartz said.

A number of new positions, the majority of which are part-time posts, contributed to increases in the salary portions of the budget. School Board members have allocated $13.1 million, or 7.4 percent more than the current year, in their spending plan to cover the salaries of the district’s regular education teachers in kindergarten through the 12th grade. The salaries of special education teachers will increase slightly next year and total almost $2.86 million.

Mr. Schwartz said the adopted spending plan will permit the hiring of a part-time nurse, a full-time math teacher, a part-time special education math teacher, a part-time science teacher, a custodial worker, a part-time physical education teacher, and a part-time Latin teacher. The district is also hiring a new fourth-grade teacher in order to accommodate separating the fourth-graders into five different sections starting in September.

The cost of adding the new staffers is $295,000, excluding benefits, school officials said.

The district will also be charging slightly more in tuition costs next year. This year, taxpayers in the sending districts of East Quogue, Quogue, Remsenburg/Speonk and East Moriches are paying $18,075 per student. Next year, they will be charging $18,196 per student, according to school officials.

The budget allotment for the buildings and grounds department will be increasing as well, from $2.7 million this year to $2.9 million next year. The bump reflects raises and higher costs for utilities. The district has allocated an additional $30,000 in next year’s spending plan to cover anticipated increases in natural gas prices.

In addition, Mr. Schwartz is set to receive a raise under next year’s spending plan. The superintendent, who is making $198,700 this year, will earn $217,000 next year. His raise is reflected in the administration budget, which will increase almost 7.6 percent next year to $4.6 million.

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