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School Budget: The $4.5 Million Question

Board Of Ed Outlines Cuts That

A Second No Vote Could Bring

The Manhasset Board of Education met with residents last week in on-going efforts to address the failed passage of the 2013-14 proposed school district budget. Emotions ran high as $4.5 million in possible cuts in staff, sports and curricula were presented, while residents spoke of the importance of preserving instructional programs, athletics and the district’s cachet as an elite system.

“There is a fantastic reputation because of academics, as well as athletic and after-school activities,” said Tina Young, who grew up in Manhasset and now lives in the district with her own children. “Voting no here only hurts the children.”

Young’s comments were echoed by other speakers, many pointing out that a reported 69 percent of the proposed budget increase is attributable to non-discretionary increases in staff benefits and retirement system contributions.

There are, however, ways to cut “fat,” said Ann Hance, who works in real estate in Manhasset and is the mother of school-age children. For instance, she said, the district could trim its use of substitute teachers and transportation could be reduced, since so many parents drive their children to school.

“Times are tough,” said Hance. “And they are getting tougher.”

The defeated budget called for a 2.56 percent increase in spending and a 5.98 percent tax levy increase. Through a complex formula, the state has deemed that the district’s “tax cap” for this year is 0.15 percent. That is, if the proposed tax levy increase is more than the “cap” allows, a 60 percent “supermajority” is needed for passage. In the first round of voting that wasn’t achieved, as 53.32 percent voted yes (2,053 votes) and the no votes totaled 1,797.

Should the no voters again take the day, more than $4.5 million in cuts could come. The Board of Education distributed a working document outlining possible reductions. The cuts would fall into five categories:

• Group 5: Administration, maintenance and security. A savings of $787,033 would come from the layoff of custodians, administrators and others. Those at risk of job-loss were informed on May 31.

• Group 4: Before and after-school programs. The elimination of the elementary homework club, secondary school homework club and many other elementary, middle and high school clubs would save $424,949.

• Group 3: Interscholastic athletics. The elimination of all interscholastic athletics at the middle school, junior varsity and varsity level would save $1,720,202. This includes coaching, supervision, transportation and other expenses related to the sports program.

• Group 2:  Secondary school staff reductions. Cutting up to 10 full-time equivalent positions at the secondary level would trim $1,199,910. The board cautioned that humanities and music programs could be eliminated, as well as an integration of other programs.

• Group 1: Elementary school staff reductions. A savings of $1,215,250 would occur at the elementary level, with the lay-off of teachers, social workers and teacher assistants.

“This is a chilling document,” said father of three, John Delaney. “It’s sad to think about losing the programs in here. Talk to friends and neighbors because too many people did not vote. Get outside of your house and take some responsibility.”

A revised budget, which is due this week, will be put to a vote on Tuesday, June 18.

For numerous reader comments on the school district budget, turn to Letters To The Editor.