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On Tuesday, May 18, we will be voting on what may be the most difficult budget ever put forward by the Port Washington School District. It is important that this vote is an informed one, and I am dismayed by some of the misinformation being circulated. In particular, I believe that it is irresponsible to claim, as some do, that the money we are returning to taxpayers is somehow a product of "deceptive accounting," as claimed in last week's paper. Using such inflammatory language does get headlines, but it does not serve to enlighten. There are certainly legitimate accounting questions, and had these critics come when they were asked, they would have heard the answers. Perhaps they would have concluded, as did I, that releasing these reserves benefits taxpayers, whereas allowing the money to remain idle serves no useful purpose. And if they didn't reach this conclusion after hearing all the facts, they would have had an opportunity to voice their concerns in a responsible manner rather than publishing misleading accusations in the newspapers.

Another widely discussed topic is the reduction in the extra curricular "units" budget. The board has substantially reduced that budget line, and there is an assumption that there will be corresponding cuts in extra curricular activities. That does not have to be the case. Our teachers' contract permits a change in the number of units assigned to an activity, and such alterations have been made in the past. We expect that through a combination of adjustments made by the units committee and volunteerism on the part of community members, we will maintain our extra curricular offerings at or near current levels. Can we guarantee that? Of course not. But in these difficult times, I believe it is our responsibility as teachers, parents and students to come up with creative ways of doing more with less.

I am painfully aware of the difficult decision facing every member of the community this year. I wish we could have brought in this budget for less. We are human, and I'm sure the budget we have created is not perfect. However, I do believe it does the best job possible of balancing our educational needs with the constraints on our resources. On May 18, I urge everyone to come out in support of a budget that I firmly believe is in the best long-term interest of both children and taxpayers.

Mark Marcellus

Board of Education Trustee

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