School budgets pass in Warwick, Florida

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:13

    WARWICK - Voters in the Warwick Valley Central School District approved a $64.8 million budget Tuesday, a hike of 9.56 percent over the current budget. They also returned Paul Caskey and Debra Holton-Smith to the board, along with Mike Meinhardt, a former board member. All five candidates for the three available Warwick seats either were or are currently board members. John Moore and John Blake, both former members of the board, ran as well. Warwick voters also gave the nod to buy eight new school buses, one transportation vehicle, and other equipment at a cost of $680,000. Florida School District voters approved a $13.4-million budget, 346 to 248. They also approved creating a $5-million construction fund to be spent over 10 years and reelected unopposed school board members Daniel Codi and Gloria McAndrew. The Florida Library's budget was also approved. Debbie Holton-Smith said she was "most appreciative" for being reelected. "Thanks go to everyone who lifted up our children on Tuesday with their ‘yes' budget votes. Supporting our future leaders is, and will always be, the wisest investment a community can ever make. Indeed this is a great community with great schools and I am proud to be able to volunteer another three years on the school board for you all." Mike Meinhardt served nine years on the Warwick school board before taking a break two years ago. He was obviously pleased with Tuesday's results. "My initial reaction was that the most important thing, more than any single person being elected, was the budget passed," Meinhardt said the day after his election. "I know it's not easy. People are making a lot of sacrifices for this budget. School board members come and go but the kids only get one shot at a good education." Meinhardt noted that state aid has fallen since he left the board n it was around 31 percent two years ago compared with 27 percent now. Although he felt the voter turnout was decent, he said he would like to get more people involved in the process. "We have to work on getting more people out there," he said. "It is an ongoing challenge to get people interested. This is a couple of years in a row that we passed a budget," Meinhardt noted. "That is encouraging." The bulk of the increase in this budget is in contractual obligations for existing staff members. Salary increases make up nearly 4 percent of the jump. Health insurance and other benefits will cost an additional $2 million or 3.5 percent. The part of the budget dealing with growth shows an increase of less than one percent. One elementary teacher, one middle school teacher and one guidance counselor at the high school were included in the growth budget. A special education aide and teacher and several non-instructional support staff members were also included in the budget. "We are certainly very pleased and appreciative of the community's support," said Dr. Joseph Natale, superintendent of Warwick schools. "People recognized that the increases are mandated for retirement and health insurance. I know this is a tough budget. We thank them for standing by us." Meinhardt, Caskey, and Holton-Smith will be sworn in July 1. Meinhardt has a unique perspective this time around. "I can look at this from a slightly different perspective now," he commented about his two-year absence. "I'm excited about the next three years. It is a nice feeling going back now."