The Port Washington School District and the Port Washington Teachers Association reached an agreement to extend the teacher’s contract that will save the district $1.3 million, according to School Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Mooney.
The new agreement will help the district as it plans ahead and tries to spare programs.
“To say that this is significant is an understatement,” Mooney said at Tuesday's School Board meeting on Tuesday at Schreiber High School.
“It took a great deal of reflection, thought, planning and courage on the part of the leadership to come forward with this agreement,” she added.
School Board President Karen Sloan said the move allows community members “to catch our breath.”
"The concessions we made in return for a one year extension to our agreement are good for students, good for the district, good for the community, good for all of us," PWTA president Christine Vasilev said.
Going forward, she added, “school budgets cannot be balanced on the backs of hardworking teachers and staff.”
Use this moment, she added, "to build on our collaborative relationship,” and to “press legislatures to ensure we receive our fair share of state aid.”
Many of the details of the agreement can be found on the district’s website. They include decreasing the value of the 2013-14 base salary of teaching staff, except for nurses and part-time teachers, by one day’s pay. They also include early retirement incentives for the next two years. And for the next two years, the school calendar will be reduced to 183 work days from 184 work days, and Thanksgiving recess will begin on Wednesday before the holiday.
While the savings drew a round of applause, some residents said the savings amounted to "kicking the can down the road," as budget woes will continue in the years to come. Others urged the district to look at online learning.
In delivering Tuesday’s budget presentation, school officials said that the district would see additional savings of $1.1 million from 13 teacher retirements. Of those retirments, four positions would be replaced at lower cost. In addition, the district may lose nine positions to attrition; that could mean possibly eliminating the PEP program, which was reduced last year.
Still, no final decisions have been made yet, Mooney said. She added that if the district did eliminate PEP, it would look at other ways to deliver enrichment. The full budget presentation is posted on the district website.
Further cost savings may be realized by reducing some of the district’s paraprofessional staff, including two educational assistants, and 17 teacher assistants.
There could be further cuts to supplies and field trip allocations. The Creative Arts department may also see cuts in instruments, repairs, tuning and more, as well as cuts to the the recommendations for new students to attend BOCES occupational education offerings.
On the plus side, the district estimates unanticipated revenues for the 2012-13 school year of $800,000 from payments in lieu of taxes, and a $500,000 reimbursement from BOCES.
That leaves the district with a gap of $1,345,000 to get to the tax levy limit of $127,626,727. Currently, the draft budget increase is 3.46 percent, and the levy increase 3.23 percent.
"It is within the tax cap levy limit," Mooney said. "Even though we’re in the 2 percent ‘formula,’ the budget increase and the levy increase can be over 2 percent and is allowable."
This agreement will help save jobs, as the district had been looking at cutting 10.6 teacher positions.
The district is hoping by March 19 to have information on additional retirements, and may be able to save some teaching positions. Also under consideration: using reserves to preserve, restore or even expand programs including full-time elementary librarians, PEP and foreign language.
The board meets next on March 19.