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West Hempstead school board adopts proposed 2020-21 budget

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The West Hempstead Board of Education adopted their proposed budget for the 2020-21 school year on May 19. This year’s budget vote and trustee election will be done by mail. Ballots will be mailed to residents, and must be returned to the district clerk by June 9.

The West Hempstead School District is proposing a spending plan of $65.2 million, a year-over-year increase of 2.52 percent. The proposal features numerous facility upgrades, including safety and security improvements throughout the district, a pre-kindergarten center at Chestnut Street School and a media center at the high school.

“I think that we’ve taken into careful consideration the taxpayers and what we can afford to do,” school board President Karen Brohm said. “We’ve managed to figure out how to spend very wisely in the past few years, and so regardless of what happens, I know that we’re going to get through this. We’re going to get it done.”

Joel Press, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, who helped to prepare the budget, offered three scenarios for the tax levy increase, depending on how much state aid the district receives: no increase, a 1 percent increase or the district’s initial proposal, made on March 3, of an increase of 2.96 percent. Understandably, many board members are hopeful that no increase will be needed.

“I think the community has gone through a lot of hardship, and as a school district, we don’t want to add on to that,” Trustee Patricia Greaves said. “These are times where there are so many unknown variables, so I’m for the zero percent increase.”

The district hopes to finalize their proposal by the end of the month. Given the uncertainty over state aid, trustees expressed concerns about potentially having to cut programs. “That’s my main concern with the programs that we plan on adding,” said Trustee Joseph Magaraci. “I hope that we’re not going to lose any momentum that we have going forward.”

Having to make adjustments to their spending plans between now and the budget vote in a few weeks, Brohm said, created a challenge for many districts in the state. “I believe the governor put us in a very bad position,” she said. “In the same regard, I’m not sure that he has the answers of what the numbers are going to look like. I just think there were other things that could have been done.”

“It’s our responsibility to give our kids the best possible education that we can,” said Board Vice President Andrea Shinsato. “Unfortunately, we don’t know what the state is going to do to affect that.”