The Westport Central School District approved it’s budget of $5,408,000 for the 2012-2013 school year to put before voters.
The budget will be a 2.85 percent tax levy increase and will amount to a $74,303 increase from the 2011-2012 operating budget. According to the District Treasurer Cynthia Moody, the levy will average a $45 annual increase for property owners with a home assessed at $150,000.
School Superintendent John Gallagher said the district was able to establish this budget by reducing BOCES spending by $25,721, the elimination of a full teaching position and by using $224,866 of the districts fund balance.
Gallagher said the use of the fund balance shouldn’t hinder the reserve to maintain the mandated 4 percent by the end of the year.
On March 1, English teacher Scott Gibbs turned in his letter of retirement which will go into affect in July of this year.
“Earlier drafts of our budget called from reductions in other areas after receiving Mr. Gibbs letter of retirement, we were able keep more in our budget,” Gallagher said.
Gibbs position as English teacher for grades 7 through 12 will not be replaced. Gibbs teaching responsibilities will instead be given to Academic Intervention Services instructor, Vicki Wolinsky. Gallagher said Wolingsky’s AIS services will divided among faculty members.
The school will also be making cuts to electives offered to students. Gallagher said the guidance office is currently in the process of meeting with students to apply for classes they would like to include in their schedule for the 2012-2013 school year. Electives with the least amount of interest may not be offered. Faculty hope to allow students the opportunity to take the courses they desire.
“We are making every effort to make sure incoming seniors won’t loose the opportunity to take electives they were expecting to have available to them next year,” Principal Michele Friedman said.
The vote on the budget will take place May 15 from noon to 9 p.m.
Prior to the vote, the school board plans to hold five budget outreach forums to increase public understanding of the boards established budget for the 2012-2013 school year. Board members attended the Westport Town Board meeting on April 24.
On May 3, a Public Budget Hearing will ne held at the school at 5:30 p.m.
Select board members will hold a forum at the Wadhams Fire Department meeting on May 1, at 7 p.m.; the Chamber of Commerce meeting on May 2, at 5 p.m. The location of the chamber meeting has yet to be announced as of April 20. Also on May 2, a forum will be held at the Westport Fire Department meeting at 7:30 p.m.
Dr. Gallagher said many people in the community have written letters to the editor against the districts proposed EXCEL project. Some have suggested the school only perform half of the proposed project.
Gallagher said the project cannot be split because the bond was written to include both projects.
“Many people are saying we don’t need a generator because E’town school has one in case of a power outage, that won’t help us because E’town hasn’t hooked up their generator,” school board ember Dwayne Stevens said. “Those people writing letters and posting things on the internet aren’t sitting here, they are not getting the facts and they are going on misinformation.”
Stevens said the inclusion of the generator will save the school money in the long run for any power outage big or small.
“During out last power outage the school lost over $10,000 in food when the refrigerators failed,” board member James Carroll said.
From 1998 through 2011, Gallagher said the school has experienced 13 major power outages.
“Anyone of those events would prevent this school from operating,” Gallagher said. “Right now if we lost power, I’d have to put 250 kids on a bus and wait till we contacted all parents, bring the students to E’town or Camp Dudley, and students would miss a day of school.”
Gallagher said the mounting costs of transportation would also play a factor as the school would need increase the transportation on the days of an outage.
“We don’t just need this generator to serve as an emergency shelter, we need this for our school to remain functioning in case of power outages,” Gallagher said.
The vote on the budget will take place May 15 from noon to 9 p.m. Residents will also vote to approve the bond of up to $450,000 for the EXCEL project.
The school board seat currently held by Stevens is also up for election, with the incumbent being the only person to submit a petition.
Residents will also be vote on the budget proposition to purchase school busses with total expenditures just under $80,000 out of reserve, which will have no impact on tax rate, The proposition is for the purchase of a new smaller school bus which seats 30 to 36 passengers and the purchase of a van we have been leasing, total expenditures there are just under $80,000.