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Shea Will Offer Budget to Fit Tax Cap

Layoffs, program cuts are expected in South Huntington schools.

superintendent Thomas Shea expects to present a budget proposal to the board that won't exceed the state tax cap.

"My recommendation will be cuts that get us to the tax cap number," She said in an interview Thursday. "I'll be setting priorities in the next few days." That proposal includes a tax levy increase of 4.22 percent, which he said was "etched in granite" and includes costs associated with a bond approved by voters in 2003.

The school board is scheduled to vote on Shea's proposals at its April 4 meeting, followed by a public hearing May 8 and a vote by residents on May 15.

The state tax cap, which is often described as a 2 percent cap on the levy, has several exceptions built in. The levy is amount of funding a school district needs to raise through property taxes to balance its budget.

Voters in a district could vote to exceed the limit but passage requires a 60 percent supermajority to do so.

A budget that exceeds the limit would be accompanied by this language on the ballot:

"Adoption of this budget requires a tax levy increase of ____which exceeds the statutory tax levy increase limit of ___for this school fiscal year ad therefore exceeds the state tax cap and must be approved by sixty percent of the qualified voters present and voting."

The district is considering proposals entailing more than $5 million in cuts; the district must find $3.7 million in cuts to meet budgetary limits.

Among the ideas under consideration are drastically different bus schedules, half-day kindergarten and these layoffs:

     Proposed Reductions

Elementary teaching staff 11 Secondary teaching staff   9.2 Paraprofessional 10 Custodial/grounds and maintenance 12 Clerical 13.5 Total 55.7

If the half-day kindergarten program is implemented, another 21 teaching positions would be converted to part-time jobs. Shea estimates a saviings of more than $1.1 million by cutting kindergarten hours.

Clerical staff positions would be lost at the district office (6.5), Whitman (4), Stimson (2) and Silas Wood (1).

Other Reductions Under Consideration

Middle school sports $124,156 Jayvee sports $116,614 Varsity sports $533,893 No new equipment (except IT) $17,400 Extracurricular activities $275,000

Under the new cap law, a district can present a budget a second time if it is rejected the first time. If it fails a second time, a contingent budget is imposed.

Contingent Budget

Working 2012-2013 budget $146,744,492 2011-12 tax levy $100,401,290 Other Revenues $35,154,716 Total contingent budget $135,556,006

Required contingency reductions*

 

$11,188,486

 

*Required cuts to reach $11,188,486 in contingent budget

Equipment  $180,799 Community use of facilities and grounds:  $150,000 Administrative cap*  $312,519 Additional cuts required to reach total
 $10,545,168

*(District office, building administration, public information, liability insurance, BOCES)

The school board meets again Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at

Elaine March 29, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I completely agree! It seems to me that these meetings are just a formality the board has to go along with. They have already made up their minds and no matter what arguments or suggestions we make they don't seem to care. They continually contradict themselves, give misinformation, or just flat out lie. I have no faith in these people other than to let us down yet again. Why do we call this district " union free" when we are anything but? Our kids have lost so much already! It's inconceivable to me that they aren't willing to really consider viable options for saving money in this district! They talk to the parents and students like we don't have brains in our heads! There have been so many good suggestions made and I feel like they are only paying us "lip service". They have no intention of listening and who loses in the end? Our children.
joey March 29, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Good point Elaine. With the money we are spending on taxes and to protect our kids we need to continue to ask the questions and make them respond whether lies or not. Somehow will get to the truth.
d March 29, 2012 at 12:57 PM
I do laugh - its hard to think that our kids are the ones loosing out, sadly, beisdes the BOE, do we realize that the salraies of the other people sitting at dias add up to almost a million dollars. Do we really need so many Asst Superintendents? I'm sorry, maybe its me, but I think if cuts are made, they should be made at all levels. Supers, have assts, who have secreatries, who have runners etc etc.
Jim R. March 29, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Sports and extracurricular are on par w/academics? A very outlandish statement and one of the main reasons why the US is falling so far behind in terms of education.
Kathy March 29, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Donna - You are mistaken about the question marks, they were in the district bus column, not the huntington coach column. They were indicating that if they completely outsourced to Huntington Coach they don't know what the legal fees will be to pay off the district union to let them out of their expired contract. Because of the Taylor Law, when a government union contract expires it remains in force until a new contract is negotiated...so you can never ever outsource the buses without a lawsuit from the union. That's why I suggested never in-housing anything that can be outsourced because once the union is in, there is no competition, the negotiating process is skewed in their direction since they continue to operate under the expired contract until a new one is settled on, so there is no incentive for them to hold out for whatever they want. They are required to use a competitive bidding process for everything, until the union gets in...then there's no bidding, no competition, ever again.
d March 29, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Kathy I do understand that, but there is no bidding. There is one company, that is it. And he even said that price is one year. And yes I understand the ???. But take the capital improvements out of our bus numbers and they will be much lower. You cannot add a building into the factor of what a bus cost.
Kathy March 29, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Donna - As for the bus depot, Dr Shea first admitted that he agreed with the numbers, as did Mrs. Occhiogrosso to me in a meeting that I had with her about this issue. The reason the bus depot is included in the cost of running the district buses is that it is part of the cost of being in the transportation business. It's solely associated with the buses and could not be used for anything else if they were to get rid of the buses. If you are comparing apples to apples, Huntington Coach has included their bus depot costs and all the costs of running the buses in their stated number as well. That's just how you do the math. The reason that Huntington Coach can provide the busing to us cheaper than doing it ourselves, is because as you scale up in a business, the overall costs per bus get cheaper. Huntington Coach has many more buses than the district...I think 700 in total. The bottom line is that the presentation was given by the district with those numbers. They looked like complete fools up there to then say, well they're not our numbers, we don't know how much our buses cost to run so we just used an outside party's number in our presentation. That does not give me any confidence that they have a clue as to how they are spending any of our money, which is why I believe they should not be in the transportation business.
Kathy March 29, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Elaine - I was thinking the same thing about Union Free so I looked it up...it seems to have nothing to do with being union free, unfortunately. It has something to do with being able to have a high school in the district.
Kathy March 29, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Donna - What the district is actually questioning is whether they should include the debt service on the money borrowed to build the building. Not including it would be like saying that your house only costs what you paid for it and not including the mortgage interest in the equation. The no bidding issue is not true. As Mr. Clifford stated, other bus companies have had this contract in the past. As it turns out, it is not cost effective for a bus company to drive buses from the east end of long island or even the south shore every day to drive kids in our district. It is a business that is geography based, in other works, it is only cost effective for companies to service schools in the area where their bus depots are located. If we outsourced and leased our bus depot to the contracted company, maybe another company would be interested in coming in for at least half the routes since they would be able to store them in our facility. And there is no competition permitted with the district buses and they are costing us over a million dollars more per year to run than coach would cost. I researched this before advocating for it and I looked at the districts around here that completely outsource to Huntington Coach to see if they were price gouging them due to lack of competition and I found that their pricing is in line with what we are paying them. Prices do increase every year, just as they do with the union.
joey March 29, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Donna could not have said it better. You notice all 4 asst Supers are safe. In fact looking back a little we never had this many I think in district. It seems when the district doesn't know answers with the PhD's they go to a consultant which adds to the budget. Let me review from last night the back n forth on the bus was entertaining and eye opening. The district apparently does not have the numbers on what it costs them so they have Huntington Coach provide it. It seems like we can figure the costs pretty easily since they are our employees. Someone else asked about the bond in 2003...what was that for because it seems the district back then stated it was cheaper to in-house all the buses. Now we are seating here 10 years later again asking the same question outsource or in-house. Why did they not spend the money like proposed in the bond in 2003 after building the depot to in-house? Was it deemed to expensive after all??? Now the district says we'll hire another consultant to figure it out and the parents of kindergarten sit there knowing they are going to cut the program this year. Wow what a mismanaged situation.
Janet March 29, 2012 at 06:53 PM
@Jim R. -- Poor choice of words on my part, I should have send go hand in hand or work off of each other... I truly believe we would loose some kids if they couldn't play sports and others need the sports to expend energy and stress from tough academics.. I don't think sports are the reason for why we are falling behind in education... The importance of education isn't stressed enough, and kids get moved up to the next grade without the qualifications starting at a very young age. That's another discussion... The point was that sports shouldn't fall victim to the budget when there are many other areas, that wouldn't effect the students as much, could be trimmed...
Kathy March 29, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Janet - which is exactly why I am advocating for privatization of the buses. It will save over $1,000,000 per year while not affecting the kids at all, except the schedules can remain the same as they are now, so only a positive effect. That money can be used to save other important educational programs. But, unfortunately, the UPSEU union will not let the district privatize. Thanks a million, literally.
joey March 29, 2012 at 07:09 PM
We can talk sports, music, art and should it be a free public program or not but seriously that is another topic...right now we have a 3.7 million dollar cut and another next year as well coming. The sports and music etc...although could have some savings is not the big issue to our problem. 70% of our budget is wrapped up in salaries/pension/benefits to staff we can't control costs because of unions. The union leader sits there each meeting and could care less of the heartfelt statements from the residents as no agreement has been made about freezes or better yet pay reductions. We are obligated to pay the contracted agreements on increases and yet the private market has been hurt bad the past three years. The real issue is the out of control salaries n the districts and NO ONE wants to go there.
Ron March 29, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Sorry to disagree Kathy but the school bus companies on Long Island are like the Mafia families in the city. They all have their own turf and other companies don't bid on their territory. It's simply the truth. Clifford is a salesman and should we go for it he has the ability to bid next year whatever he wants regardless of what he promises. Careful what you wish for...a million dollars or not.
Mike March 29, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Why don't you ask the union leader why he doesn't do something? You may get a good answer.
Elaine March 29, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Donna you hit a big nail on the head! Why do we need so many Asst Superindendents and why are their salaries so insanely high?! You know what large corporations do when they want to save big money? They cut back on executive management because they have the highest salaries! I'm quite sure that between the Superintendents salaries, pensions and benefits we could save many teachers who are critical to the success of our children!
Kathy March 29, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Ron - Let's look at the facts instead of the union/district propaganda. Currently we have approx. 1/2 routes in house and 1/2 outsourced to Huntington Coach, yet we are paying over $1,000,000 more than if we outsourced the whole thing to Huntington Coach. Those were numbers presented by the district on several occasions and they specifically told us they agreed with those numbers until the union said they were wrong and then all of a sudden, they weren't too sure. The union doesn't allow competitive bidding and insists on all kinds of increases every year and will never, ever let us end our contract with them even when it expires. But that's not at all mafia-like, no. I know that this is due to the Taylor Law, but the unions take full advantage of it. If the unions truly just cared about organizing their members in order to ensure good wages/benefits, then they wouldn't care which union they were in. And yes, Huntington Coach's drivers are also unionized. The unions are just businesses too and the more members they have, the more money they make and the more powerful they become and now we are stuck with this union for life. There will never be competition. But, that's not at all mafia-like, no. As for how much Huntington Coach might charge next year...again, look at the facts. The other districts that completely outsource their transportation to HC pay about the same that we pay them. So there is no evidence that they would charge us more.
Kathy March 29, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Do you know the answer to that question Mike? If so, please share...thanks...we'd all love to know.
Patti March 30, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Hi everyone. I just have a few things to add..I was at the meeting as I have been at every meeting for the past four weeks. on the topic of transportation I want you to know that I have spoken with my customer and when he had the meeting with them he gave them the name of an independent consultant who works with alot of schools on LI with regards to transportation. I will follow-up to see if they called him. Although it sounds like it will be a bigger issue next year..maybe they will hold off on a contract till they get the analysis. The other important thing he said to me is that he WOULD BID on it. He also said there are ways to post the bids to get others companies to bid and the consultant will help them with that..
Patti March 30, 2012 at 01:49 AM
As for the teachers I only heard rumor that they are willing to take a freeze but only if no one looses their jobs..I would go along with that if we can also assure that they then give enough to keep sports and kindergarden with it..the few teachers I have spoken to who said they would take a freeze. I think as a community we should be able to have a majority teacher vote taken to the union and not have everything go through the union president Last year when I directly asked him for a freeze - straight to his face at the last meeting before adoption- he told me I WILL NOT bring that to my teachers.do you know what that does to our pensions years down the road. Well, my answer to him was that since I was in banking for 30 years and last year unemployed for 10 month I more than knew what happens- I also knew I was out of work and all we wanted was a freeze..he basically said no and walked away from me... I understand the position of Union President, as my husband was one for a while along with my father, but they also knew when the company was about to go under they needed to give back..well he needs to realize we need the support now and if would go a long way to bring the community closer and stronger.. I really don't want anyone to loose their jobs..I just lived it and am still hurting from it but I always put my kids and other kids before my needs..
Patti March 30, 2012 at 01:55 AM
I just have to add one more thing..I think our teachers are great and the kids love them.. I wish there were other ways to get what we need..I have written to local legislators, town, county and government...I hope you all have also...we need to keep writing till they listen..this is the future of America they are hurting..it needs to be fixed.. ...
Kathy March 30, 2012 at 02:19 AM
As I have stated before. This is clearly unsustainable and everyone knows it. There is only so much they can cut and in a few years that will be it. We are not the only district experiencing this. It all comes back to the high salaries, pensions, benefits etc. But no one wants to go up against the unions, they are too powerful. Look what happened in Wisconsin! I think this is the way to collapse them and start over.
Kathy March 30, 2012 at 02:20 AM
That's awesome Patti...good work :) Please keep us posted if there is any progress. The only problem, I think you will see, is that I'm pretty sure they are going to enter into another 4 year contract with UPSEU, the bus drivers' union. That has been their pattern and when I suggested only entering into a one year contract as a show of good faith that they would actually look into this in the fall as they have stated, I was met with blank stares. So I'm sure it's business as usual, they have stalled until the fall, they will hire a consultant, they will give the consultant information that will lead them to the same conclusion as last time, that it's cheaper to run their own transportation company, and they will still be saying they can't get out of the union contract anyway...they are just humoring us and hoping we go away.
Patti March 30, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Thanks Kathy..I am trying my best to come up with a few solutions..I am sure with all the community concerns the board will look into it and see what makes sense and saves us the most money..I do know that I plan on attending more BOE monthly meetings so am a little more aware of whats going on rather than wait till budget meeting start. This way if I come up with an idea as I listen I can offer it early in the year ..I don't envy the poeple on the board..it is a really tough job and someone is always mad at you..
Kathy March 30, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Patti...maybe people wouldn't be so mad at the board if they would just tell the truth, but lying seems second nature to them. They work for us, why won't they tell us what's going on? They seem annoyed that we are raising this busing issue. It started with an innocent question about outsourcing because that's always cheaper due to the pension commitments with in housing anything. They are making so many cuts to programs, people just want them to make more common sense cuts first. I know they do not want to go up against the union, but that's just too bad. If they have another valid reason, they need to tell us what it is.
joey March 30, 2012 at 05:06 AM
Patti teachers make a very good salary for the amount of time they work compared to the private sector. Plus much better benefits and pensions. What's killing us is not the teachers but the teacher salaries. The obligations we have to pay into the system is so great we can't keep up. The private sector market has slowed and the teachers continue to get great raises and step increases. If the school was a real business a level of management would be gone and the old teachers packaged out. That's how you save and create an opportunity for new blood to come into the system. The benefits would be re-structured and not guaranteed raises three years down the road when the economy tanks.
Janet March 30, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Can the BOE really not try to work something out with the bus union? Can the teachers' union president really not put something on the table to show good faith? Isn't there something about mismanaging our money that we can do something about? Why even attend BOE meetings if it isn't going to get us somewhere? Sorry just feeling a tad bit frustrated by all this and the lack of the BOE etc. being upfront about things...
Kathy March 30, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Maybe enough people haven't stayed on them long enough. They clearly don't like it when they're asked the hard questions. They prefer to have the kids come up talking about dance class...which they also seemed to "mix up" the facts. Are they just totally incompetant??? or just lying??? I can't figure them out.
Patti March 30, 2012 at 11:40 AM
This may not be a popular opinion but I really think they are trying. you are right we may never know the whole story but I did have some one on one conversations and questions alot in the past year. for example..Can't the board ask the teachers directly? No they are not allowed.(that was why i went right to the union president to begin with) .I don't see why the public can't speak at the union meetings..and I am sure the teachers who want to help don't want to cause trouble in the union...or can we sell the buildings? well they are zoned schools only and they have looked into it..so althought it seems like they haven;t tried alternatives they really have looked into it..that being said maybe they will come back with a different proposal that works for the community.. can we negotiate more with vendors, consultants? If we put bids out to the community maybe we will get better pricing? have we trimmed where it makes sense for the kids? Maybe its time we start a self insurance plan for the district..I know a few municipalities doing it..I am researching now..this is why I feel I should go to all meetings during the year..Maybe if we work at it this year we will not hurt so much next year (I know that doesn't help now) I do think we should start this process in October/November so that the public has alot more time to absorb, ask questions,offer suggestions, understand better and just not feel rushed so we think that things are hidden or have not been considered yet
Kathy March 30, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Patti...all very good points. This whole thing started because we know it's cheaper to outsource things than to hire your own workers due to the large pension costs associated with the latter. So we started asking questions and found that HC was approached by the district to save money and they proposed a solution to save over $1 million dollars per year by privatizing. The problem is that anyone who already works for the district belongs to a union and due to the Taylor Law, once we have a union in there, we can never outsource. That's why I implored the board to never bring anything inhouse that could be outsourced again, because once you do, you're stuck with it. You saw how the bus drivers' union rep from the UPSEU threatened a $9 million dollar lawsuit if they tried to outsource. The unions have a stranglehold on us and until we collapse this system, we're stuck with them. The district will have to cut everything and sell everything and we'll be left with kids being bused to an empty lot being taught reading, writing and arithmetic by the few remaining teachers..but the union will be protecting them, so don't worry.

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