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Pearl River Schools Proposed Budget: 1.68% Tax Increase for Residents

The Pearl River Board of Education approved resolutions eliminating teaching and clerical positions for 2013-14 to keep the budget under the state mandated tax cap. Pearl River willl holds its budget vote and board of education election May 21.

Pearl River school board member Michael Clohessy joined the administration and other board members in answering questions about the proposed 2013-14 district budget during Tuesday's meeting in the district administration building.

"When we sit up here and have to decide what gets cut and what doesn't get cut, when I go home, I don't sleep," Clohessy said. "It affects every kid in the district. When we were holding meetings at the high school (where they were held until early 2012), I was saying this is coming. We're going to be hit and it's going to be devastating. It's just going to get worse. This is the beginning."

The need for cuts led to two resolutions Tuesday that eliminate 17.7 teaching and clerical positions, some of which were part time, to allow the district to make up a $1.7 million deficit to keep the district under the state mandated tax cap for 2013-14. The resolutions are attached to this report. A 0.6 ELA academic intervention services teacher was also added at the high school, for a net reduction of 17.1 positions. 

"We looked at the numbers. What if we don’t do it now? What if we put things off?" Pearl River Superintendent Dr. John Morgano said. "If we put it off, there is a cumulative effect and it just comes back to haunt you. The reality of the two percent tax increase is you can’t raise the money. When the teacher retirement system bill goes up $1 million in one year and that eats up almost all of your two percent tax increase, that’s what you are stuck with. We can’t go to the tax payers and ask them for a six percent tax increase." 

Pearl River Director of Operations Quinton Van Wynen first reported the deficit, and predicted shortfalls in the years that follow, in January.  

"After doing an analysis, we determined we had a significant deficit not just for 2013-14, but stretching in the next few years," Van Wynen said. "So we determined one of our goals would be to eliminate the potential $1.7 million deficit for 2013-14.

"The reason to eliminate the deficit this first year of what we look to be a multiyear plan is our analysis indicated that over three years our deficit would be over $6 million. By eliminating the $1.7 in the first year, it would automatically be eliminated in the second and the third years, so that our deficits we will have to deal with in 2014-15 and 2015-16 will be reduced to $900,000 and $700,000. Much more manageable numbers as we move forward."

The result is a $63.4 million proposed budget that includes a 1.68% tax increase for residents and six percent increase for non-homestead taxpayers. The actual tax levy increase is 3.5%, but with the exceptions built into the state law, Pearl River will be under the cap. 

"We may at some point need to go to them and ask for more than (the tax cap), but the first or second year out is not the time to do that," Morgano said.

The proposed budget adopted Tuesday could still be changed before it goes on the ballot May 21. It does reflect the changes presented during budget presentations going back to in their respective buildings and departments.

"When we asked our principals and directors for suggestions of what to cut, they agonized over it," Morgano said. "It wasn’t that they said this would be good to cut. We asked them, give us what you can lose that’s not mandated that will hurt kids the least. Not that it won’t impact kids, but it will hurt the least. Everything impacts kids. Otherwise we would have been wasting your money before."

The cuts include 10.3 teaching positions and 7.4 support positions. The district is also eliminating freshman sports teams and cutting down on overtime. 

With the reductions staff come changes in programs including:

  • Elimination of PREP Program in elementary schools
  • Elimination of Challenge Program in Pearl River Middle School
  • Elimination of Learning Center in middle school
  • Elimination of librarians in elementary school
  • Transfer of consortium classes to BOCES
  • Elimination of teacher assistant support in middle school classes
  • Elimination of freshman teams and winter dance team
  • Elimination of two clerical positions
  • Elimination of .5 speech and .4 psychologist
  • Changes to high school art, world language and social studies

Resident Denise Anselmi spoke out against the elimination of librarians at the elementary schools. Clerks will keep the libraries open during the school day with teachers taking over the instruction in library skills.

Melissa Anselmi argued that the district is taking too much away from children with special needs.

"I am so disgusted that this blue ribbon district takes everything away from special needs," Anselmi said. "Where are the kids who need special help supposed to go? What resources are there for them?

"Kids are not getting classified any more, so they are not getting the building level services. You are taking away from special needs when you could be taking away from spots. It's very frustrating to sit here and listen to this."

Board member Bruce Bond disputed the claim that the district is choosing sports over special needs. 

"We try to balance it out as much as possible," Clohessy said of the cuts.

Resident Michael Mandel was more specific, questioning the ongoing support of the hockey program, which costs approximately $60,000 out of the district's $1 million budget for sports. That entire budget includes the full time director of athletics and secretary, 63 total teams among varsity, junior varsity and modified and intramural programs.

Another parent asked about increasing costs of administration salaries. Van Wynen pointed out that the administrators did renegotiate their contract with the district to give back part of the salary increases, as did most of the district's bargaining units. 

Morgano pointed out that the district did make one reduction in its administration in 2011 when Sandy Cokeley retired a few months after he had taken over as Superintendent. Most of her duties were combined with personnel to create the Director of Human Resources and Community Services, Diana Musich's position.

Editor's Note: The Pearl River 2013-14 Budget Vote will e May 21 in Pirate Cove at Pearl River High School. 

Mike March 20, 2013 at 10:40 AM
Kudos to Denise Anselmi who made a very accurate assessment of the dirty little secret of the PRSD- the off loading of children with spcial needs and other learning disabilities. with the overwhelming vast majority of children being denied services by what can only be decsribed as a rigged "kangaroo court" type system. Has the Board EVER looked into how PRSD "teaches" kids with learning issues? As usual, this Board mereley accepts the data provided to them by the Administration and does not have the best interests of students nor taxpayers depsite their claims to "lack of sleep" over these decisions. How much money would be brought back into the district budget by significant pay cuts and elimination of Administrative salaries which are clearly the highest in the distrsict? I for one am voting NO on the budget until administrative salaries are cut.If we have less Special Ed services, if our curricullum is being carved up, then why are we paying Administrators who "manage" those areas the same wages as previous years. The system here is a farce. Malcolm Baldridge should come to PR and take his award away from this distrcit.
Sydney Smith March 20, 2013 at 10:47 AM
I would start with a 10% pay cut for every employee in the school district.
Sydney Smith March 20, 2013 at 11:36 AM
Spot on Mike.
Kelly Garrett March 20, 2013 at 12:09 PM
Well said Mike, thank you. As I stated in a previous blog, why does Pearl River High School need two (2) yes, (two) Vice Principals?
BRIAN March 20, 2013 at 01:41 PM
ITS TIME FOR EVERY SCHOOL BOARD IN EVERY DISTRICT TO TAKE A 15-20% SALARY CUT...AT LEAST...THESE PEOPLE ARE NOTHING BUT VULTURES...START A BLOCK VOTE...AS THE SCHOOL DISTRICTS' TAX BASE AGES AND THEIR INCOMES STAY FLAT...ALL THESE PARASITES ON SCHOOL BOARDS WANT IS MORE $$$ FOR THEMSELVES...END THE HYPOCRISY...VOTE THEM ALL OUT!!!!
Enough Already March 20, 2013 at 01:59 PM
# 1. Too many Chiefs. When given the option, they will always cut from outside their own ranks. # 2. Education is a RIGHT for all of our children, Sports a PRIVILEGE. When Mr. Bond talks about getting a "balance", it is assuming these are equally important. They are not. Look at the rest of the world. Only in America does sports have this special place in schools. Cut sports before you cut education. If kids want to play sports, let their parents pay or fundraise to play. What the PR board is doing is simply wrong - cutting from kids who need help the most. At a minimum, if you're going to cut from the special ed budget, cut the fat at the top (the Special Ed Director) rather than those who actually do some work. Why do we need "Managers" when they have nothing to manage???
SeeThroughNY March 20, 2013 at 02:08 PM
"...the administrators did renegotiate their contract with the district to give back part of the salary increases." Food for thought: Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, who took office on New Year's Day 2011, said he would cut his $179,000 salary by 5% ($170,050) The average Governor's salary in the United States: $130,595 John C. Morgano - 2012 Salary - $252,000 Susan C. Wheeler - 2012 Salary - $186,680 2011 Salary - $151,427 ONE YEAR INCREASE - $35,253 William F. Furdon Jr. - 2012 Salary - $179,099 2011 Salary - $175,153 2010 Salary - $170,046 INCREASE - $9,053 Maria A. Paese - 2012 Salary - $182,287 2011 Salary - $172,104 2010 Salary - $167,157 INCREASE - $15,130 Just those 3 increases alone total $59,436. That's enough money to hire a new teacher with a Master's Degree. I'm curious how much they actually "gave back." These are only 3 administrators. And that is just doing away with increases.... Information obtained from seethroughny.net
CR March 20, 2013 at 02:36 PM
I agree 100% that there are too many Chiefs and that the Administration has to be cut down, either through meaningful salary reductions or through outright eliminations. I do not agree that sports should take the brunt (or all) of the cuts. Kids learn valuable lessons through sports; teamwork, dedication, socialization to name a few. What would all these kids do after school if the programs were eliminated? They'd be hanging out getting in trouble. The salaries listed below in SeeThroughNY's post are disgusting. Tied to those salaries are the outrageous Pension obligations as well. That is another area that should be examined and reduced. That could save millions.
BRIAN March 20, 2013 at 03:03 PM
ITS SIMPLE...THESE PEOPLE ON SCHOOL BOARDS AND THE ADMINISTRATORS ALWAYS FORGET WHERE THEY CAME FROM...NOW THEY ARE NOTHING BUT QUASI POLITICIANS AND NUMBERS CRUNCHERS FOR NOTHING BUT THEIR OWN GAIN...A COMPUTER CAN DO THEIR JOBS NOW WITH MUCH MORE EFFICIENCY... AT THE SAME TIME SAVING THE TAXPAYER FROM BEING TAXED OUT OF THEIR OWN COMMUNITIES...TEACHERS ARE THE FUTURE AND SHOULD ALWAYS BE CELEBRATED AS SUCH...THE NUMBERS CRUNCHERS ARE PARASITES...IF HISTORY HAS TAUGHT US ANYTHING...NUMBERS CAN AND ALWAYS WILL BE MANIPULATED FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE FEW AND NOT THE MANY
Hawaii March 20, 2013 at 03:37 PM
Privatize the schools.
Lynn March 20, 2013 at 05:23 PM
the school board is a volunteer position. They are not paid. Perhaps you meant the school administration?
Lynn March 20, 2013 at 06:41 PM
PREP/challenge programs and special Ed meet the educational needs of children who learn outside the norm. Unfortunately, they are not viewed that way by others. The elem/MS Principals suggested cutting PREP because it's only for some kids and not all. (With that convoluted logic they could suggest remedial reading, special ed - it makes no sense)...When considering these draconian cuts I understand that some of these "extras" are the only reason some enjoy school, they teach socialization and keep kids out of trouble. However, if the school cut or cut back (art, music, drama, speech, psychologist) I have the option as a parent of paying for my child to take music, art, speech elsewhere. If the school cuts PREP/challenge there is NO place I can take my child and pay for it on my own. There is no option other than the school. The district has mentioned it's operating as a business. With this in mind I don't understand why they asked each Principal and director to cut $x. With my own budget I don't cut a certain amt in each category. I prioritize. Why didn't they ask for more suggestions then necessary from each Prin & Dir and then prioritize as a district and cut as a district. Surely some buildings and categories are leaner than others and shouldn't all be cut an equal amt.
Babs March 20, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Mr. Smith- as a employee of the school district I can't afford a 10% cut in my salary- can you? I probably make less than you- my taxes as well as your taxes are going up 18%, we took a 2% + cut in our salaries last year- You people make me so angry with your stupid comments- come work in the school for one day, you will see how hard we work and what we have to put up with- we earn our salaries, what about you???
Stu March 20, 2013 at 09:54 PM
Somebody's is lying about the 2% givebacks the administrators took and I think I know who it is!!!! Where is the school board???? Why aren't they doing their jobs!!!
Stacey Maher March 20, 2013 at 10:22 PM
I have a child in the special education program in Pearl River for the past 8 years. The amount of work the manager does on an everyday basis is enormous. I can tell you the phone never stops ringing, the evaluations never stop coming, the IEP modifications are always changing, the referrals are never ending. If you doubt the importance of any one of the administrative jobs, then come volunteer as a parent representative. Albany is the bureaucracy that is handing down mandates that MUST be met. The problem is they don't tell us how to pay for it. Parents were more in an uproar about losing school bussing than class size increase. Bussing is a privilege. After School activities, sports, dances, plays, etc is what make this area desirable, cut it out and watch our property values go down. There are already too many kids hanging out and getting into trouble. Anyone drive by the Dunkin Donuts, Doller General, Murty's Publik House? But that would be a police issue.
Mike March 20, 2013 at 11:06 PM
@Stacey- please understand the distinction being made here. No one is suggesting that staff or administrative employees who do the work you describe should be cut. I think what most people are questioning are the number of Administrator positions and their salaries. These are comparatively higher than other employees and we shoud question the value they deliver. The Board and Supervisor indicated they want to run the district like a business. I can tell you in my business no one is guaranteed a job, no one is guaranteed raises, and each year the out of pocket expenses for my benefits increases. We as taxpayers and parents have every right to question the quality and the costs associated with educating children in this district. The Board, rather than being co-opted by the Administration of the district should be asking those very same questions. The bottom line is there is no money in DC and no money in Albany so they will not be there to help. It comes down to running the business (district) in an efficient way and yes this means questioning how every dollar is spent. It means questions the role of each employee, especially the high wage earners.
Mike March 21, 2013 at 10:57 AM
Bottom line folks is if you don't like what is happening to your district, call, write or attend next BOE meeting and let hem know. If you get not response, then vote no to budget and vote out board members who support the Administration.

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