A line-by-line dissection of the East Hampton School District’s 2014-15 budget continued on Tuesday night, as school board members pored over items related to technology and special education.
Chuck Westergard, who manages the district’s information systems, presented a proposed technology budget of $537,015, an $8,000 decrease from last year.
Unlike prior workshops, when cuts of as much as 15 percent were suggested, technology elicited little in the way of debate. Among the bigger-ticket items, $50,400 will go to replace faculty workstations in each high school classroom. The updates will replace computers last purchased in the 2007-8 school year. The 72 computers, which among other things help teachers take attendance, cost $700 apiece.
Board members also seemed to support the purchasing of 180 additional Chromebooks, which would allow for 60 devices at each of the district’s three schools. Each Chromebook costs $330, for a total of $59,400. In addition, $2,000 was budgeted for Apple apps and $3,000 for Google apps.
Cindy Allentuck presented budget items related to special education, a department that she oversees. District-wide, 220 children in grades pre-K to 12 are in special education, with others currently undergoing referrals.
Special education proposed an annual budget of $1,669,368, which represents a decrease of over $120,000 from last year.
Board members briefly debated the need for a $471 fax machine for sending and receiving psychiatric evaluations; two electric three-hole punches, each at a cost of $79.68, and two electric pencil sharpeners, $83.97 apiece.
Cost-cutting proved a consistent theme. Patricia Hope, the board president, urged that before submitting next year’s requests, department heads first submit lists of existing materials, thus avoiding the added expense of purchasing duplicate materials.
Psychiatric evaluations also proved costly, with $18,000 budgeted for Lea DiFrancisci Lis, a Southampton-based practitioner, among several others. Though the district is required to pay for initial evaluations — and provide necessary interventions when deemed appropriate — it is not required to pay for ongoing psychiatric care.
Speaking of special education and appropriate placements, Ms. Allentuck underscored the potential expense of high-needs children unexpectedly relocating to East Hampton. For next year, the district has budgeted $125,000 for a residential placement at Westbrook Preparatory School in Westbury. In past years, residential placements have ranged between $100,000 to $200,000 a year for each child.
“It is our responsibility, and it should be our responsibility, but one student can make the difference in hiring three more teachers in the classroom,” said Jackie Lowey, a board member.
Finally, the board discussed hiring an additional speech pathologist at John M. Marshall Elementary School, where the need is particularly great. The district now employs four speech pathologists, who split their time among the various schools. Last year, the district stopped offering speech therapy for elementary students who lacked individualized education plans. Currently, its caseload is overwhelmed with special-ed students and there are too few practitioners to meet the need of others in the schools.
“There’s not much we can cut,” concluded Christina DeSanti, a board member, shortly before the meeting was adjourned.
“But it’s important to sit here and do it,” said Ms. Hope. “And for the public to hear.”
The next budget workshop will be on Monday from 6 to 8 p.m., when transportation and athletics will be covered. A regular school board meeting will take place on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.