Concerned teachers, parents and administrators packed the meeting room at the Pearl River School District's administration building Tuesday to hear about the 2013-14 budget, including potential cuts in programs and personnel.
The district administration asked the five building principles and the directors of athletics, special services and facilities to present options for cuts within their buildings or departments as part of a presentation at the board of education meeting.
Pearl River Director of Operations Quinton Van Wynen is projecting a $1.7 million shortfall in the district budget for 2013-14, with even larger deficits for 2014-15 ($2.4 million) and 2015-16 ($2.6 million). He said that by making the cuts now, things should be easier in the two years that follow, but there are unknown variables such as state financial aid and increases in health care and insurance costs.
"Budgeting has changed dramatically in New York State," Van Wynen said. "We no longer look at programs and say what can we add. Now it's how much money do we have and what can we do with it?
"I've got a three-year plan here and I'm not sure that is enough. Things aren't getting better. There are more pressures coming from Washington and Albany that we have to deal with."
Van Wynen and Pearl River Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Morgano both pointed out that Pearl River is in better shape than many other districts, in part because it has fund balance to fall back on. Van Wynen's three-year plan calls for the spending of approximately $1.5 million in reserves over that time period.
"We happen to be a district that has lived cautiously over the last number of years," Van Wynen said. "We put money aside. We have reserves.
"As Dr. Morgano said. we may have problems and we may be swimming hard to stay ahead of the tide, but many districts in this state are drowning already."
The potential cuts presented Tuesday night represented 16.8 full-time employees (some were part-time positions) and approximately $1.3 million.
"If you are the person losing your job, it's awful," Morgano said. "I lost my job when I worked in New York City and the city went broke. It was no consolation to me that other people had their jobs."
Morgano said that each principal and director was given a dollar amount and asked to find cuts to reach that number.
"The principals, this was a struggle for them," Morgano said. "They agonized over this because this is the heart of their program. They had to look at what was not mandated. Not mandated does not mean not important. Just because something isn't required by law doesn't mean it isn't good for kids. We simply can't magically do away with a $1.7 million problem."
Van Wynen said there are still variables in place for the 2013-14 budget, such as the specifics of state aid and the potential impact of the retirement incentive the district announced last week.
Among the cuts suggested Tuesday:
Elementary Schools (Principals Peggy Lynch of Evans Park, Maureen Alaimo of Franklin Ave. and Kathleenann Cool of Lincoln Ave.)
- Delay band and orchestra until fifth grade (middle school), cutting a 0.6 FTE (full-time employee). Students will continue to be introduced to instruments in general music classes.
- Eliminate PREP enrichment program and 1.5 FTE that goes with it. Students will participate in JET programs as part of homeroom.
- Eliminate librarians in the elementary schools, cutting 1.5 FTE. The library clerks will remain so the libraries can remain open during the school day.
Pearl River Middle School (Principal Maria Paese)
- Modify current IEP practices to eliminate five teaching assistant positions. Plan includes establishing a testing center with two full-time teaching assistants to allow for test modification compliance.
- Eliminate Challenge/Learning Center
- Eliminate part-time audio-visual operator, whose responsibilities will be taken over by library staff
- Eliminate machine operator, with teachers and office staff taking over those responsibilities.
Pearl River High School (Principal William Furdon)
- Restructure math labs and class sizes to save on one full-time employee
- Eliminate Microsoft Suite course, which would lead to reduction of one social studies teacher.
- Eliminate Grade 8 Studio Art/Tech Design courses
- Move Careers course to eighth grade, with students in grades 9-12 taking alternate electives.
- Reduce sections of World Language, increasing the class sizes.
Special Services (Director Carolyn Moffa)
- Eliminate Consortium Class
- Reduce .5 school psychologists, spreading work among those who remain.
- Reduce .5 in speech therapists, which would eliminate non-mandated services including assistance to St. Margaret School.
Athletics (Director Todd Santabarbara)
- Eliminate freshman baseball, boys basketball and winter dance teams, which would likely reduce number of ninth graders participating in athletics.
- Eliminate single-game stipends including football cameraman, adult supervision for junior varsity and modified events, scorekeepers for away games.
- Reduce number of officials at track meets, which could make them longer.
- Eliminate morning fitness center and open gym at the high school.
- Reduce spending for tournament entry fees.
Facilities (Director Bob Nelan)
- Upgrade machinery with one-time $50,000 cost and keep more maintenance work internal, saving approximately $30,000 per year.
- Decrease overtime by 10%, which may include not opening district buildings on Sundays.