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.
- 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.