On May 15, School District 15 residents will be able to vote on a proposed $93,155,150 schools budget and a $2,995,135 library budget. They will also be able to vote for school board and library trustees. Uri Kaufman is unopposed in his election for a third term. Patch spoke with him about the issues facing the school district.
Why should residents come out and support you for another term?
I believe that the board has a proven record of defending the public purse while delivering quality education for all the children. On our watch we have upgraded the schools with a $17 million capital improvement program. Our facilities are now state of the art. We have also gotten our graduation rate up to 98.7 percent, an extraordinarily high level for a district in which over 60 percent of the kids are on free or reduced lunch. The budget this year is $93.1 million, the exact same as last year (despite 3 percent inflation), and those two budgets are $1 million less than the $94.1 million budget two years ago.
What do you see as the major issue(s) facing the Lawrence School District?
Lawrence is facing the same challenges confronting other districts. Pensions now make up over 11 percent of our budget, far more than in years past. State aid made up 14 percent of our budget in 1991, it is only 6 percent today. The state has done nothing to reduce the mandates that drive up budgets, but they have passed a 2 percent cap on taxes, thereby limiting our ability to pay for those mandates.
What do you see as the greatest strength of District 15?
We have a dedicated staff and administration that are second to none. We also have a great tradition of excellence both in the classroom and in our athletics and arts programs. Our students regularly place in the Intel competition and our football team has won the Long Island Championship once and the Nassau Championship twice in the last 5 years.
What do you see as the greatest weakness in the district and what would you do to change it?
The only weaknesses are those confronting all districts, as described above. We need Albany to start listening to the needs of our schools.
What changes, if any, should be made in the district’s budget?
There really isn't much that I would change in the budget. It is a strong budget in weak economic times. But we will continue to fight to find efficiencies wherever we can.
Is there any other information you would like to share about yourself or your goals? What would you like the community to know about you?
That I am as enthusiastic now to serve as I was six years ago, that I will always fight for all the kids — but mostly how appreciative I am to my fellow neighbors and friends for giving me the privilege to serve.