Huntington school district voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of a frugal $109-million budget defined by rising costs and state aid cuts, layoffs and program reductions.
The budget represents a 3.15 percent tax rate increase, and a .23 increase over this year's budget. The district calculates that increase as about $253.20 on the average home assessed at $4,000.
To parents and students, the budget represents other, more personal losses, which for many meant the reduction of kindergarten to a half-day program. And for employees, the budget means of a loss of about 95 jobs.
Members of the Board of Education repeatedly used such terms “brutal” or “painful” or “extremely difficult” to describe the budget process; another said, “This budget is making me a little sick” as they tried to reconcile the competing interests of keeping the tax increase down while trying to preserve favored programs or meet mandates.
Transportation costs, totaling nearly $9 million, were a favorite target of speakers and board members alike, with assistant superintendent Joseph Giani providing figures that show 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.
Assistant superintendent David Grackin said the personnel cuts included 50.5 teacher aides and 45.9 teachers; the latter figure includes two psychologists and 3 speech teachers.
Also lost was the boys’ junior varsity volleyball team.
Voters will choose two candidates to serve on the school board for the next three years and decide whether to spend set-aside funds for capital improvements, including the replacement of three oil tanks.
The likelihood of a state tax cap next year hung over discussions of this year’s budget. In early April, the district won the reinstatement of about $544,000 from the original cut in state aid of $1.75 million.