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Superintendent Presents Third Round of Budget Proposals

On Wednesday, March 2, the Garden City School District held the third in a series of school budget work sessions for the 2011/12 academic year. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen presented recommendations that addressed the instructional components of the school budget. The proposal includes the elimination of 13.2 full-time teaching positions (FTE), as well as an increase in class size guidelines from 25 to 26.

Feirsen addressed the speculation in the community regarding the news of teacher reductions, which he said is due to enrollment decreases. “The only way for us to do a good job reducing our budget numbers, the rate of increase, is to get a handle on our personnel and we’re doing that,” Feirsen said. “It would be imprudent of us, it would be counter to the wishes of the community for us to maintain staffing if the student population is going down,” he added.

The proposed cuts would eliminate from primary schools (Locust, Hemlock, Homestead, Stewart and Stratford), including 1.0 teacher from kindergarten, three from first grade, four among grades 2, 4 and 5, and one from grade 6. Additional cuts at the middle school include .3 developmental skills, .2 instrumental music, .5 reading, .4 librarian, .1 home and career skills, .2 music rotations, .1 business, .5 music rotations, .8 reading, .6 technology and .5 special education integrated support class. The high school teacher reductions would include .1 art, .1 business, .5 music rotations, .8 reading, .6 technology, .5 special education (integrated support class). The proposed administrative reduction calls for the elimination of a grade six-12 special education coordinator and three teacher’s aides.  Proposed support staff reductions include 1 FTE technology IT specialist; 1 FTE AV Technician; 1 FTE Cleaner Attendant at the high school; 1 FTE Cleaner Attendant at the Middle School; .5 FTE Clerical; 1 FTE Bus Driver; and reduced security guard hours. Feirsen said the rational behind these cuts focused on the fact that work can be done from remote locations and responsibilities can be filled by other staff.

Feirsen also recommended an increase in the class size guidelines of one. Currently the class size guidelines require that there be only 25 students maximum to a section in grades one to six. “I am recommending to the board that we increase that by one and go to 26,” Feirsen said.

School Board Vice President Barbara Trapasso asked the administration how many classes would be affected by the increase in class size guideline. Dr. Fino Celano, assistant superintendent for personnel, explained that increase in a class size cap will affect only two grade levels. “The way this is going to impact our school district district-wide, it will affect next year’s grade three and next year’s 2011-12 grade four at Stratford. So those are the two levels that will be impacted,” Celano said.

Total enrollment anticipated for next year would be 159 at Stratford Primary School. The average class size would be 26.5 with six sections. That would mean three sections of 26 and three sections of 27. “Remember those are the numbers that we are anticipating now. What happens over the summer is that those numbers fluctuate,” Dr. Celano said.

Dr. Feirsen made reference to the fact that he proposed increasing the class size guideline by a few students in the 2010-11 budget much to the chagrin of the community. “I still believe that, incrementally, no one could prove to me that there’s a major change in going from 25 to 26, or 24 to 25,” he said. “But remember, all our other grade levels are fine. But what it does for us, this one student change, is save us over a quarter of a million dollars,” Feirsen added.

The 2011/12 preliminary budget includes an overall budget of $101,117,058, with a budget-to-budget increase of $3,128,568 or 3.19 percent. The projected tax levy increase (with STAR) is 2.71 percent. A budget hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 10 and the budget vote takes place on Tuesday, May 17.