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School Budget Cuts Announced

‘Education to Remain Top-Notch’

“We are keeping the cuts as far away from the classroom and instruction as possible,” said Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz as the budget cuts and costs driving the budget were discussed at the March 22 public action meeting. The preliminary working budget for the 2010-2011 school year is $189,547,240, a 2.16 percent increase over the current 2009-2010 budget.

Budget cuts are extremely difficult in light of the “no fat” school budget and the mandates and revenue losses the school district faces. Major increases driving the budget include: MTA payroll tax ($340,000); ERS/TRS mandatory contribution increase ($2,000,000); Social Security ($325,543); health insurance ($612,555); and unemployment insurance ($340,000). Anticipated losses include a loss of interest of $200,000, and a $1,053,000 loss in state aid.

In order to come up with an increase as close to 2 percent as possible, the school district had started budget work early, with the premise that they must cut about $6 million from their already lean budget. At this point, total proposed budget reductions are $5,285,791, with $4,667,279 concentrated in 11 areas, and the rest reflecting reductions none of which are greater than $100,000.

The 11 areas with cuts adding up to $4,667,279 starts with retirement incentives, proposed by Superintendent of Schools Thomas Dolan, adding up to $1,100,000. The school board and administration assured that this incentive will have no negative impact on programs, “except to the degree that some talented veteran teachers will be replaced with younger, less veteran individuals.”

Next, the district will reduce 10.6 full-time secondary positions from the district’s six secondary schools. This reduction is out of a total of 328.98 secondary teaching staff. These reductions were developed by the district’s secondary staff. All courses with sufficient enrollment will run and the administration assured that “the quality of the course of study will not suffer.”

Third on the list is to “manage class size at the elementary level more efficiently and consolidate computer staff across the district resulting in a 10.2 full-time equivalent decrease. This reduction is out of a total of 192.25 elementary teaching staff. The savings is $820,400. Computers services will still be delivered in all elementary schools. The district assures that class sizes “will still be at very acceptable levels and in almost all cases will not begin to approach the traditional limits we have put in place.”

Number four states that the Secondary Index decreased across all buildings, with a $417,000 savings. The impact is that the principals will see their budget decreased by 20 percent, with the result being that they will need to curtail purchases of textbooks, equipment, supplies, software, library materials, and contractual items. The percentage decrease results in reductions spread equitably across the buildings.

Number five calls for a clerical staffing decrease of 4.5 for full-time equivalents, with a savings of $325,000. Two positions that are currently vacant will not be filled, and 2.5 positions will be cut.

Number six saves $238,971, coming from a reduction in hourly teachers. Reductions in hours at North High, South High, North Middle and South Middle will see a decrease in hourly English teachers,  a decrease in AIS teachers, and a reduction in study skills teachers and consultants.

Coaching positions will be reduced, saving $135,000, with 23 coaching positions eliminated. These positions are varsity, JV, or middle school positions. The one varsity position being eliminated will result in a team being combined to allow continued participation.

Eliminating 4.0 full-time teaching assistant positions and 3.0 paraprofessional monitors will save $140,598. These eliminations are still being finalized at the building level; however, the central office and building administration will work together to minimize any negative impact on students.

Number nine, at the elementary level, 2.5 full-time equivalent cleaner positions will be eliminated, saving $107,110. Each elementary building will be reduced by .5. The administration emphasized that every effort will be made to share cleaners such that additional staff is available at a building whenever there is an evening event.

By reducing the technology budget, the district will save $160,000. The district said that while this will slow their growth in this area, “it will neither curtail nor diminish the commitment we make to instructional technology.”

The eleventh, final reduction is to eliminate after-school homework/tutoring (all at the elementary level) and reduce before-school enrichment and intramurals. This will save $296,200. Programs will still exist in all the elementary schools in the morning in these areas. After-school cost reduction is largely due to decreased need for transportation.

The additional reductions do not include any reductions that are greater than $100,000. Such reductions include items such as: summer work; SAT/PSAT/Regents prep; reductions in hours for other employees not in the classroom; reductions in psychology and social work services; reducing allocations for telephone lines, telephone repairs, and fields trips; and the elimination of elementary late buses.

Ms. Berkowitz reiterated how, in light of the “economic downturn,” the budget process began so early this year. “A measure of strength is how you handle the challenges,” she said, as the board of education president once again assured that, no matter what the economic environment, a Great Neck Public School education would still remain a top-notch education. No child will suffer.