Written by Margaret Whitely Friday, 18 February 2011 00:00
At the last Herricks School Board meeting, superintendent Dr. Jack Bierwirth presented, at the request of the school board, two separate budgets. One was what he called a “Shaved Stand-Pat” Budget with a budget-to-budget increase of 6.64 percent. This budget does not cut programs or services to students. But, it does not include any expenditures for capital projects, new buses, new maintenance vehicles, Herricks Teacher Center, since New York State has withdrawn its support for teacher centers.
The second budget he presented, which was specifically at the request of the members of the school board, was a budget with only a 2 percent increase. To achieve this budget it required a net reduction of $4.6 million. Dr. Bierwirth explained, “Since we must budget for unemployment costs, a net reduction of $4.8 million was achieved through cuts totaling $5.73 million offset by unemployment costs of $1.1 million.
“For each position listed for elimination, we used average salaries at the bottom portion of seniority lists within tenure or civil service areas and average benefits for those individuals. Please note that due to bumping the individual holding a position slated for elimination may not always be the person who would actually be excessed. We used the salary and benefits of the person who would actually be excused in determining average savings.
“Further, note that the line-by-line budget, which follows the coding format required by New York State, separates costs for salaries and benefits and for different parts of programs (e.g. coaches’ salaries are in one place, transportation for teams in another).
“Following is a list that brings all costs into one for easier discussion purposes. The dollar amounts include both salaries and benefits and, if relevant, other program costs.”
He then listed the following cuts:
a. Three administrative positions: Administrative responsibilities will be re-distributed among remaining positions once final cuts have been made and it is known whether there will be any retirements. No open positions are being filled as per board direction in January under the quasi-freeze. The secondary math chair is currently unfilled with the math department overseen by the high school Science Chairman.
b. Elementary math/science coordinator. Curriculum development and instructional support in math and science on the elementary level will all move back to the building level.
c. Elementary Committee on Special Education (CSE) Chair
CSE responsibilities to spread among remaining positions.
d. Reduce release time for elementary lead teachers (from half-time to one-quarter time). Lead teachers will have less time to provide instructional support and to assist in mandates areas such as RTI.
e. Eliminate elementary science experiment consultant. A new system will have to be developed at the building level for science experiment kits. Those are an integral part of the elementary science programs.
f. Reduce elementary Gemini teaching positions from three to one and restructure elementary Gemini program.
g. Reduce ESL staff K-12 by three positions. Some ELL classes would be consolidated at all levels.
h. Reduce Middles School teaching positions by 6.5. Departmentalize Grade 6 instructional program to partially offset impact of higher-class sizes. Teaching positions will be reduced across departments. This will result in larger class sizes than without cuts. Team structure on Grades 7-8 to be maintained. English Scholars Program Grade 8 which required extra staff since it is a pull-out-to be curtailed or eliminated.
i. Eliminate Art/World language co-teaching program.
j. Reduce high school classroom teaching positions. Consolidate academic support services. Sections to be reduced across department will result in higher-class sizes than would have been the case otherwise. Actual reductions and ramifications difficult to determine until course selection process by students and families completed and staffing needs for those selections determined.
k. Reduce music staff at the middle school and high school by one position in each building. High School: Reduce to two bands and two orchestras instead of three of each. Pullout sectionals would be put back in high school. Larger sectional groups in music theory. Chamber music class would not be offered. Middle Schools: Larger sectional lessons for band and orchestra. Possibly combine 7th and 8th grade orchestra. Instrumental teachers would teach sections of general music.
l. Increase special education caseload and reduce positions by 5.4 K-12. The remaining special education teachers will have an increase in the number of students with IEPs. Many of our classified students have significant needs; modifications of curriculum, accommodations and behavior plans per mandates on the individual. Education plans are implemented by the education teachers. These professionals communicate with parents about their children and also need to dialog with general education teachers are essential at the K-6 level for monitoring and administering all components of the mandate response to intervention (RTI) plan.
m. Reduce elementary speech teachers by 1.5 positions. This will increase the number of students in the roster for elementary speech teaching staff. In order to meet the mandated services on the IEPs there will be an impact on the number of students who currently receive AIS speech support and speech improvement services.
n. Eliminate elementary and middle school computer lab teaching assistants. Computer teachers will have to cover labs by themselves. Loss of the TA positions will mean less coverage.
o. Reduction in elementary teaching assistants and aides by 8 positions and Middle School teaching assistant positions by one. The elimination of 6 teaching assistants and teacher aides in K-12 impacts the support services provided to students in our general education classes. One of the many responsibilities of the teacher assistants is providing instruction, e. g. small group instruction, re-teaching and or previewing of the material. Teacher aides assist in behavior management plans needed for some students.
p. Reduce bus driver by one and part-time driver aide by one.(This does not include bus driver positions which could be eliminated if the state changed the laws and regulations which require all districts to provide a seat for every student eligible to ride a bus even if those buses are only 30-40 percent full. Even a modest increase in flexibility would allow for a reduction of two buses and two drivers.
q. Eliminate elementary and middle school library clerks. This would mean less coverage in libraries and perhaps periods where libraries would be closed.
r. Reduce clerical positions by four (2 district office, 1 high school, 1 middle school. Note that an additional high school clerical position was cut as part of the shaved stand-pat budget. Responsibilities will be distributed among remaining positions.
s. Facilities staff cut 2 cleaners and 1 grounds staff. Responsibilities will be distributed among remaining positions.
t. Reduce number of high school monitors by four.
u. Cut outside security contract by 50 percent. Use custodial staff. Outside security to be used for evening and weekend primarily.
v. Eliminate Geese Off
w. Eliminate Boston trip for Grade 8. Frost Valley programs for Grade 6 to remain. It is largely self-sufficient, however, considerable staff time is devoted to organizing and executing the program. Reduced staff may make continuation difficult if not impossible.
x. Eliminate elementary homework help. This eliminates the after-school homework help clubs.
y. Reduce all clubs K-12 by 30 percent. The exact clubs to be cut to be determined after the budget is set.
z. Cut one of two high school productions (keep musical, eliminate drama). Musical productions at both the middle school and high school to be maintained. The drama production at the high school to be cut.
Aa. Reduce athletics program
Bb. Eliminate Saturday Recreation
Cc. In order to alleviate the need for further cuts postpone where possible the purchase of new texts on the secondary level, library books K-12 and technology equipment and supplies.
With the exception of replacement texts and texts needed to meet the new state curriculum requirements, the purchase of new texts, new library books and certain instructional equipment will be postponed. This is in order to save further cuts in instructional programs or staff. This step is not sustainable for more than a year or two.
Grand total in savings: $5,687,900
The anticipated cost of unemployment insurance for staff whose positions have been eliminated for 2011-12 is $1,100,000. Should they remain unemployed and should Federal law remain unchanged there may be additional charges during the 2012-2013 school year for these individuals.
Cuts listed: $5,687,800
Cost of unemployment insurance: - $1,100,000
Net Savings to 2011-2012 budget: $4,587,900
Dr. Bierwirth said, “The New York State Legislature has not approved the final state aid formula for the 2010-2011 school year. The figures published by the legislature last spring, the same as were reported in Newsday, were only estimates. Since that time, it has become clear that the Department of the Budget has been modifying parts of the formula to reduce the amount to be distributed to districts for 2010-11. At this point, we expect the 2010-11 aid total to be $500-$600,000 less than the published figure. In August the Herricks Board of Education set aside a reserve of $500,000 to offset a shortfall.
“Many observers expect Governor Andrew Cuomo to propose further cuts in aid for 2011-12 and perhaps for the remainder of this fiscal year. Note: Each $837,000 lost in state aid is the equivalent of one percent of the tax levy.
“Federal stimulus funds expire at the end of 2010-11 school year. Half of these funds (roughly $480,000 per year) came directly to the district. These were used for non-recurring costs, primarily professional development (Fundations, Columbia writing, Wilson, etc. ) the other half (roughly $45,000 per year) came through the New York State Aid formula. However, federal jobs funds (roughly $375,000 for Herricks) will be available for 2011-12.”
Dr. Bierwith added, “Governor Cuomo has indicated that he intends to propose a property tax cut of two percent for all local governments. Until this proposal is released we cannot discuss ramifications. However, a loss of state aid of $500,000 to $1.5 million would use up most and perhaps all of any allowable increase. Accordingly, the 2011-12 district expenditure budget would have to be reduced further to bring it under the cap.
Once a proposal is submitted to the legislature by the governor, Herricks will do an analysis of the ramifications to the Herricks budget.”
Needless to say, after Dr. Bierwirth outlined the proposed cuts, those assembled in the crowded cafeteria were not happy. Many expressed dismay regarding the cuts to the athletic department. One avid supporter said that new athletic jerseys were desperately needed.
Another resident said that it was a shame to cut the magnificient music program that has made Herricks so famous.
One woman said it was her first school board meeting she has attended in spite of the fact she has lived here for 30 years she thought everything should be cut so that people would be able to live here and not move away and that new younger residents could move to Herricks.
One resident pointed out that the reason many people move to this area is the Herricks School District and if everything is so drastically cut that will not happen.
A resident said, “It just won’t be the wonderful Herricks school it once was. It will be so very different.”
Superintendent Bierwirth pointed out that the budget process is just that, “a process” and that everyone will go back to the ‘drawing board’ and see what can be done.
The very long meeting finally ended and it was announced that the next regular board and budget meeting will be held on Feb. 17 in the Herricks Cafeteria, 999 Herricks Road, New Hyde Park. The meeting will begin at 6:45 p.m. and will break to meet with the students of high school and then will resume the budget portion of the meeting after the meeting with the students is completed.