Huntington School Budget Could Cost 100 Jobs

Some state aid restored, bringing tax rise to 3.3 percent.

About 100 employees stand to lose their jobs under the budget prepared Monday night by the Huntington Board of Education.

Though the district will get back about $544,000 in aid originally chopped out of the New York State budget, the reinstated money will mostly flow to trimming the tax increase. Instead of an increase of 3.5 percent, which the board had settled on previously, the board estimated rates would rise 3.3 percent, though board and administrators left the meeting prepared to check their numbers. 

Assistant superintendent David Grackin said  that simply putting the reinstated funds back into the budget would have put the tax rate increase back to 2.9 percent. And board president Bill Dwyer proposed sticking to that number, but others on the board objected. Vice president John Paci suggested that the board accept a 3.25 increase, but after much discussion of various scenarios, and the restoration of some spending, the board arrived at the 3.3 percent. The proposed budget is $108.7 million.

While glad to have the money restored, Dwyer said, "“It’s a decrease in the cut—they took away less."  The district stood to lose $1.75 million in state aid before restoration of some funds.

In the process of finding the most palatable plan, board and administrators dug through pages of numbers and recalculated costs before agreeing to limit spending on most new equipment, including smart boards and other technical equipment.  Members returned several times to the theme that cuts were painful for all and that no one was happy with the state of the budget.

Board member Emily Rogan said, "This budget is making me a little sick. I'm  having a tough time wrapping my brain around this. What happens early on really does set the foundation for everything. I cannt support these kinds of drastic cuts."

But though the program known as Saturday Academy was reinstated under the plan, and money was moved about from one budget line to another as various scenarios were tested, full-day kindergarten seemed gone for the coming year.

Administrators put the cost of a full-day program at $1 million. Many who attended the meeting pleaded once again to save the full-day program.

Others insisted on cuts in transportation, administration or equipment purchases while others spoke of their opposition to higher taxes or willingness to pay more to support their favored programs.

Several praised their children's teachers.  One mother said of her daughter's teacher, “If I could pay her salary myself, I would. I would gladly pay more taxes if you would reinstate full day kindergarten."

A father said he would vote for the budget no matter the cost. "I vote every year; I’m going to vote for the budget. I get it. Go 4 percent or 5 percent. Put it forward….Just put it out there," to applause.

But others objected, saying they could not afford the increases or insisted that the board find other savings in the budget to keep taxes low.

Dr. Joseph Giani, assistant superintendent for personnel, said the layoffs would mean  a savings of $7.8 million, with cuts falling heavily on support staff.

The Cuts:

  • Elementary instructional: 35.1 total (13 classroom teachers and 22.1 other elementary teachers).
  • Secondary staff: 9 total (Finley 5.8, high school 3.2).
  • Non instruction staff: 58.5 total.

Giani also showed figures indicating Huntington is busing far more students than required by state law. Under state minimums, Huntington would have to provide busing for 1,656 students; in fact, the district provides busing for 4,465 students.

Rebecca April 06, 2011 at 02:19 PM
I believe it is posted online (www.hufsd.edu) but if not, you can always call the district to ask for a copy. I hope we can restore quality teachers and programs by cutting from non-essential costs. I recognize all cuts are painful, but hate to see our district lose core programming!
Rebecca April 06, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Nope-not on the Board...just concerned about the loss of programs.
roscoe April 06, 2011 at 03:22 PM
If the school board is asking us where to cut expenses, I think we can start here: http://www.seethroughny.net/PayrollsPensions/tabid/55/Payrolls/StatePayroll/tabid/69/Default.aspx?BRANCHID=6
Bob April 06, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Bob Didn't you know the "rules of the game" before you ventured into corporate America??? I'm sure the old farts knew early on they weren't getting rich in the teaching profession. But of course they now have something that looks very attractive to others ...and they don't want them to have it!!! You have board members who are very familar with the benefits of the teaching profession and actually enjoyed those benefits greatly and now of course since they and theirs are no longer involved in the profession they want givebacks. Also, since your kids are the ones who should be making teacher evaluations ask them how our government leaders are doing.
nancy April 06, 2011 at 03:51 PM
If I'm not mistaken, HUFSD #3 athletic programs along with art and music have always been cut from previous years...for this year, the art and music teachers have worked together to make compromises of which programs will not be cut in the upcoming fall. No enrichment or extra classes during or after school for both music and art; just basic orchestra and band lessons for all the 4-6th graders...as for Reading teachers, as Dr. Card had poignantly explained, this support program had room to be tweaked...students (not all of them) have been pulled out for many various "support programs" resulting in less time spent in the classroom. (It has been room known that some students have spent less than 1 hour in the actual classroom). The Saturday program addresses those students who scored 2 or 1 on state exams while providing extra support without interfering with their daily classroom instructional time. Please realize that all 4 elementary schools will continue to have 2 full-time AIS Reading teachers. IMO, a good compromise when all schools in New York State is grappling with the decreased funding, high taxe and unemployment...
Bob April 06, 2011 at 03:53 PM
B.K. April 06, 2011 at 04:24 PM
It is time for ALL SCHOOL DISTRICTS to come back to reality. I work in the REAL WORLD and I am a member of a union for 20yrs. This last contract was ALL about give backs but no one lost their job that did not go willingly with a buy-out. I lost 10% of my salary, my health plan was raised to 28 % , and i kept my 401k the same at 10%... (no company match). I have JOB, I save for MY retirement, I pay some big money into my health care. Please understand I made my choice to work the job I do and have done pretty well with my choice. REALITY is the people in this state can not be expected to continue with this SHELL GAME any more. This district along with the rest of the state have got to STOP PLAYING THE "WE HAVE TO CUT KINDERGARTEN/OR THIS OR THAT". You want to have an open dialogue? open the contracts and negotiate with the good of the district in mind. We can not continue on the path we have been on and the sooner REALITY is introduced to the unions and school boards the better this state will be. STOP MAKING THIS ABOUT THE "CHILDREN" AND CUT THE SPENDING WHERE IT WILL DO THE MOST GOOD.
Bob April 06, 2011 at 04:26 PM
Sports, clubs and other extracurricular activities have been proven to create good social skills, comradarie, school spirit etc. This is part of the educational experience or it wouldn't have been put into school programs in the first place........duh. It's simple....cut the outrageous benefits and excessive administration. "None is so blind than he that will not see"
Bob April 06, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Kim, Are you a board member, teacher, administrator.....someone connected some how to the current school district? I just can't believe that you are being objective about this. The answers are so simple yet you (and in fairness, others as well) refuse to admit that the only way out of this mess is to address the onerous, outdated pay and benefits packages union employees make. Look, this isn't just a problem with teachers and their unions but other public unions in this state and across the country. It's not just the school district that is bankrupt, but the town, the state and the federal government. The elected officials gave away more than they had and now this needs to be adjusted. I don't understand what is so difficult about understanding that. This issue will not get solved by eliminating an art class, a sport or a custodian. And, by the way, if it isn't addressed now it is just going to be a much bigger problem going forward.............a MUCH BIGGER problem.
Bob April 06, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Bob Not sitting on the "golden goose" and certainly don't need your help. I knew the police, fire, garbage men and indian chief would eventually be thrown into your arguement. Unions Unions Unions they were good for us when we needed them but now....get rid of them. Again most of the unions are playing by the rules that they didn't even set up. I know you are so noble that if you were in one of these unions you'd be the first one to stand up and say "we can't do this anymore, we have to give back". Someone's eyes are getting browner!!!! Answer this should the union giveback without getting any jobs restored? Or should we cut the teachers and make them giveback also???
Bob April 06, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Kim, I must admit I do agree to you in that this is a shared sacrifice and all of those in the public sector have to give back. But saying, " I won't give anything until the politicians give something" is childish at best and diversionary at worst. Let's address this crisis for now.
Bob April 06, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Bob, First, let me thank you for wishing that my employer 'show me the door'. Let's not get personal please. As far as unions go, the issue at hand is does collective bargaining belong in the public sector. Can politicians who are not the taxpayers bargain with unions on behalf of taxpayers? Politicians who for the most part were put there by the unions. Is that fair? That's it. Sorry if take this as an indictment of all unions and union practices.
East N'ptr April 06, 2011 at 07:50 PM
Hey Huntington folks...a tip from a neighbor in Northport...ask your Board of Ed what the total costs of the technology upgrades like smartboards will cost you over the next 5 years. These Board of Ed's have been told that this technology is "the children's future"...maybe so, but how many teachers will end up losing their jobs to fund this technology? Which would you rather have for your kids, 35 kids per classroom and a smartboard, or smaller class sizes and more teachers?
Pam Robinson (Editor) April 06, 2011 at 08:08 PM
The Huntington school board addressed this very issue this week and, as our story notes, is pulling most spending on technology.
JSC April 06, 2011 at 08:22 PM
I don't know how many "bobs" we have posting here, but ... There seems to be some assumptions being talked about here and I'd like to straighten them out if I may. First of all, if you are a member of a union then you should know that negotiations are confidential - the general public won't know what is being discussed behind closed doors, they won't know what has been offered as a concession or a giveback, they won't know who accepted or denied any such offers or WHY. Unless someone on one side or the other decides to divulge the information, you are all making guesses and starting rumors, not a good idea. Second, board members get NO pay or benefits from doing this "volunteer to be elected" job. Third, the school board CANNOT change pension benefits - this is a state-provided system and when teachers start their jobs they are assigned to a certain tier in the system. Depending on the tier, they either contribute or not (the not's are the older staff only now, everyone else contributes at this point). A new tier V has been put in place to help address some of the contribution problem, but I think the state should have done more, and possibly a new tier VI will be coming soon. Fourth, school districts cannot go bankrupt, by state law. Their budgets must be balanced. Fifth, hundreds of thousands have already been cut from Huntington's budget in areas like equipment and supplies just to get to a reasonable tax rate. Staffing is the biggest cut.
JSC April 06, 2011 at 08:31 PM
I sincerely wish that full day Kindergarten would be restored. People are running around trying to figure out what to do with their children for the other half of the day, working parents who counted on not having to worry about their child for a full day and now they don't know what half of the day they'll be going to school! How do they get childcare set up ahead of time? Most preschools don't have provisions for Kindergarten aged children, so some parents are actually signing their kid up for more preschool to cover the day! Then there are the hundreds of immigrant children who really need a full day to get them up to speed. How are our test scores going to reflect the loss of time for them? To cut full day now and then decide to restore it another year, is going to cost even more. And then they'll have to find the space for the extra necessary classrooms that they gave away by going to half day. This is just the worst move this board could have made when one considers this district's population and needs.
Bob April 06, 2011 at 08:38 PM
JSC, A few comments: 1) It has been my experience for the most part that Board members are ex - or current teachers/administrators or lawyers w/ union/school district clients. This is hardly a fair representation to sit in front of the union at negotiating time. 2) Yes. Pensions are a state provided system. However, making staffing cuts of those that are not in the newer tiers would make a heck of lot more sense if we are trying to save dollars then cutting someone who does not get the same benefits (ie. newer teachers). Just hard cold mathematics. 3) I guess you are right.....school districts cannot go bankrupt...I guess as budgets need to be passed. I am speaking more metaphorically as even though the budgets are passed we as a community cannot afford the expense. 4) There are other things that can be cut other than pensions. How about the teachers taking a 2 year wage increase. Both merit and step increases. We could argue these issues till the cows come home. The bottom line is that Long Island can no longer afford the costs of it's school systems. Cutting operational budgets or cutting new teachers is swatting the proverbial flies as the elephants run by.
JSC April 06, 2011 at 08:50 PM
You live in Huntington? The only recent board member who was a teacher was Liz Black. There have been no lawyers with union or districts clients. In Huntington, the board itself doesn't sit in on negotiations. They meet separately with the district lawyer to hash out what they want in a contract. As things stand right now, a district may not cut senior staff. It's LIFO until the state changes things. When communities can't afford a school budget they need to then let go of all the "we've got to have" programs and extras. For decades this district has literally fought over which programs would be cut during budget time. No one wants their favorite thing taken away. Again, you don't know if the teacher's union offered a freeze or cut or not! If nothing ended up being renegotiated, one could assume three things - either the union didn't want to change or the board refused what was offered or they didn't ask the union for a concession.
Bob April 06, 2011 at 09:06 PM
JSC, No. I don't live in Huntington. I live in South Huntington. I believe there is an ex teacher, the president of the PTA, a couple of lawyers....not exactly an unbiased group I would say. Anyway, it is very easy to tell whether or not the teacher's union offered a freeze or cut. All you have to do is look at the salary and benefit lines and eliminate salaries for those that are being cut. If the resulting number is higher this means the teachers are getting raises. I can assure you that, at least in South Huntington, there have been no concessions by the teacher's at this point. Oh yeah, in private industry I have not seen a raise coming on two years now. I believe if you poll others in private industry this or miniscule increases are the rule at this point. Again, there is a HUGE problem on Long Island and one that is only going to get bigger. We are losing our young, talented future middle class mostly because property taxes have made it impossible to have a middle class life and because property taxes have scared away businesses. We can swat the flies or address the issues. As someone said in Newsday today, you don't realize the tsunami is going to hit you until it is too late.
donna April 06, 2011 at 10:41 PM
I am sick to death to keep hearing about the budget. I have not heard one word about cutting administration cuts, or to weed out the teachers that are not doing the job they were hired for. If a teacher is not doing their job they should be asked to leave, and not stay because they have been there the longest. If you don't your job your fired it is very simple. So why should teachers be any different? Stop cutting the programs that make a difference, and cut the fat. The truth is I can't afford to stay in my house because i can't afford the rising tax bill. I have to move because the administration needs a raise. Were is my raise,? my company can't afford raises, I am lucky to have a job. stop crying and do the job you have been hired for, and face it nobody can afford to give you a raise!!!
JSC April 07, 2011 at 02:14 AM
I doubt anyone here is denying that budgets have gotten out of hand and salaries and benefits need adjusting. It's just that some of you think a school district can just change things with the wave of the magical budget-cutting wand! And that isn't true. It's not that easy. Teachers can't just be asked to leave if they aren't doing their job. Not every administrator is "fat" that can be cut. I would dare say that none of you have ever seen a job description for all the administrators in your district. Over the last few years, many of them have been asked to do a lot more, sometimes taking over the responsibilities that other admins used to have - before they were cut. I'm not trying to sit here and justify what every person does, but it is very true that with all the state and federal mandates constantly being thrown at districts, there has been an explosion of "paperwork" that needs to get done. It doesn't benefit the kids, it's bureauocratic garbage, data that is sometimes meaningless for individual students. For those reasons, school boards have been practically begging Albany to change the rules, get rid of unfunded mandates, give them some power to do what needs to be done so the taxpayer can save some money. Budget lines can be deceiving. Be careful making assumptions on whether teachers have gotten a raise or given a freeze or cut simply by reading a code line. Not all teachers are in the same code line.
Art D - CSA April 07, 2011 at 02:33 PM
Kim, you are on to something! SAVE THE TEACHERS!!!!!!!!!! Fire the UNIONS!, BOE!, Administrators making $250K to $350K CUT the Pensions! , The LIFETIME Health plan - etc..... BUT SAVE THE TEACHERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jerry Hannon April 07, 2011 at 03:00 PM
For Kim: I usually find your comments (on various editions of Patch) to be reasonable, but this one is so far out of the bounds of reasonableness & intelligibility that I am astounded. There is no compensation - whatsoever - for the BOE trustees of ANY school district in NY State. They are the biggest bargain in any school district, and give amazing amounts of free time and emotional energy than any staff member of any district. We don't have to agree with them to realize that. Yes, some staff members go above and beyond their paid time, but BOE trustees get nothing - nothing - in return for what they do. As to cuts, this is a year for shared sacrifice, and the big bucks of any school district's budget is in the component for its teachers, usually 60% to 70% of a district's expenses. How many residents of any district have gotten compensation increases of 4% to 6% per year over the past ten years, as have most teachers on LI? Many residents have had their compensation frozen, and a significant number have even had their compensation reduced. People are simply looking for sacrifice to be shared by their district's staff, and for it to be a true sacrifice, and not merely something that gets recaptured in some future year. That kind of sleight of hand means it would only be a sacrifice equivalent to about 1% to 2% (reinvestment rate) of the nominal amount, multiplied by the number of years it would take to recapture the amount cut in the current year.
Art D - CSA April 07, 2011 at 03:08 PM
Kim, we agree again. But we are not a Democracy we are a Democratic Republic. Bob, saying the other Unions are doing it does not make it any better. The problem with the Unions is they are standing with the : Socialists Communists Anarchist If it looks like a Duck .... As long as the Unions stand with the Socialists, Communists, Anarchist they will never gain the respect of the American People! Unfortunately that will never change when you have confirmed Socialists heading up the Unions and the members not paying attention. It's a sorry state.
Jerry Hannon April 07, 2011 at 03:25 PM
For Bob (or at least one of them) who, at 4:38 PM yesterday, wrote: "It has been my experience for the most part that Board members are ex - or current teachers/administrators or lawyers w/ union/school district clients. This is hardly a fair representation to sit in front of the union at negotiating time." I haven't been to a Huntington BOE meeting for a year or so (I used to visit BOE meetings in other districts as part of a Best Practices effort for Elwood), but I don't believe that's true for the majority of the Huntington BOE. In Elwood, where I live, not a single one of our five BOE Trustees fit your preconceived notion. We did have, some years ago, a trustee or two who were very, very, very close to the teachers union in Elwood, but they have been replaced by people with no business connection with education, and no cozy relationship with the teachers union. We have five completely independent trustees who put the students first, and are sensitive to all residents as well as staff members, including teachers.
Jerry Hannon April 07, 2011 at 03:55 PM
For JSC, who wrote: "Not every administrator is "fat" that can be cut. I would dare say that none of you have ever seen a job description for all the administrators in your district. Over the last few years, many of them have been asked to do a lot more, sometimes taking over the responsibilities that other admins used to have - before they were cut." This is absolutely the case in Elwood where we cut two assistant principal jobs, as well as the director of transportation, in the 2010/11 year. The director of technology now also handles transportation, and the director of athletics had his office moved to the high school to supplement -- with his visible presence in the halls --the now-single assistant principal there. We also replaced in 2010/11 a full-time assistant superintendent for human resources with a part-time position, for half the cost, and doing the full job quite nicely, thank you. We also -- two years ago -- replaced a full-time assistant superintendent for curriculum with a part-time person (who actually puts in hours closer to a full time job), and by getting someone with much greater skills, not only reduced the cost, but improved the performance of that position. All of this was due to bringing in a superior superintendent (who puts in hours far beyond what his position theoretically requires) whose experience in several other districts, two of them as superintendent, has enabled him to take measures such as those I have described.
Jerry Hannon April 07, 2011 at 04:17 PM
This is really heading into "loony land." Somebody needs to stop watching the Fox Propaganda Network, or worse, and learn to differentiate positions on the basis of facts, and not aspersions. However, if you want to claim that Jesus was (and is) a Socialist, then I guess you might be fair in that particular name-calling, since human rights and the dignity of workers is a very Christian message, and it has a history in Judaism as well. But, to throw in Communists, and Anarchists, well, I'm waiting for the discussion to turn to Romulans next. Don't confuse the selfishness and greed of union leaders, and some (but by no means, all) members, with extremist social and political ambitions; greed also exists on Wall Street, as we learned, and it is found in much of corporate America. It's up to management, in this case boards of education and district administrations, to resist union efforts to reinforce greed in future contracts. But, we need radical changes in Albany for that to be enabled, since the State ties the hands of school districts in terms of personnel management; we also need relief from other State-imposed costs, through unfunded mandates and pension structures. Lets keep the extremist political agendas out of this discussion, and let's keep it focused upon the true problems.
Art D - CSA April 07, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Hay Jerry or should I call you Mr. Reid. Sometimes cool aid is refreshing during a hot summer day, sometimes it puts blinders on. Here is a bone, now do your own research: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF6A5ct69Xk&playnext=1&list=PLBCE3AD79ACC6F170 PS: The "fist" ? I wonder who uses the fist? First off Kim, the CSA does not endorse anyone. Because someone was a teacher or a Union member does not make them a bad person, not at all. I don't like your assertion that Teachers & Union members are bad. My family has both Teachers & Union members in them. You can take that kind of Hatred somewhere else.
Art D - CSA April 07, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Kim, the CSA does not endorse, we have candidate screenings where everyone is welcome ( open to the public ). The candidates will give a short 10 to 20 minute speech on why they should get elected and then they are questioned by the members of the audience. At the end the members of the audience will use evaluation sheets and rate each candidate. The CSA will than tabulate the results and provide them to each candidate as a rating number, at which time they can use the result anyway they chose. The CSA is full of individuals who think for themselves, and therefor don't all agree on the same person to help. That is why you will find many members helping different candidates. We are not Sheep, we are all leaders and everyone's opinion counts.
Jerry Hannon April 07, 2011 at 06:39 PM
For Art D, who wrote: "Hay Jerry or should I call you Mr. Reid. Actually, Mr. D, as a life-long Republican (as was my father and my grandfather), you should simply call me a Centrist Republican Vietnam Veteran Military Retiree Non-Union Member Bank Retiree, or, for the short form, Mr. Hannon. I simply don't have my head stuck in the clouds, or in the mud, or up any orifice.


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