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Talking Budget Gaps

Ways to cut an anticipated $937,515 revenue gap in next year’s school budget occupied the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Board of Education at their recent meeting.

Phyllis Harrington, superintendent of schools for the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District, outlined cutbacks in elementary school class size, reducing one fulltime position in the English as a Second Language (ESL) support program to a part-time positions, and reduction in athletic programs and some elementary co-curricular activities at the board’s March 12 meeting at the Oyster Bay High School Library.

The meeting is the latest in a series of meetings to set the budget for the 2013-14 school year in time for voter approval on May 21 (See Oyster Bay Enterprise Pilot March 1.

 At earlier meetings, school district officials explained the estimated spending plan of $53,967,475 necessary to maintain existing school programs — a $2,440,071 increase, 4.74 percent over the current budget.     School officials noted that they anticipated a 3.06 percent increase in revenue, accounting for the $937,515 revenue gap.

In other business, the board voted to ask for voter approval for extending the district’s capital projects fund and to seek voter approval for as much as $1,720,000 in capital projects for the 2013-14 school year. Both ballot measures were discussed at the board’s previous meeting.

After outlining the cutbacks necessary, Harington announced that “we can meet the gap without cutting anything at the high school” other than limited cuts in the athletic programs. Some of the audience members broke out in applause in response.

Harrington detailed the specific reductions in class size at James H. Vernon Middle School, which would involve reducing the number of sections in grades four and six. Despite the reductions, she noted, class sizes at the two schools will continue to conform to the class size policy guidelines set by the board in the past.

In addition, Harrington detailed reductions recommended by the athletic department, including cutting two assistant junior varsity lacrosse coaches, two middle school lacrosse coaches, and one middle school football coach.

Furthermore, the athletic department recommended cutting the number of “yellow coats.” “Yellow coats” are staff members who wear yellow coats while monitoring the crowds and provide assistance at home games and meets. Yellow coats would be eliminated for middle school field hockey, track, and volleyball, and reduced for junior varsity boys and girls basketball and varsity football.

Other cost-saving measures include cutting the number of middle school athletic contests by 15, junior varsity by 19, and varsity by 42 to save on transportation and officiating.  Varsity wrestling, track, cross-country, and golf teams would also attend fewer invitationals.

“Is it really necessary to have the yellow coats?” Dr. Michael Castellano, a board member, asked.

“They are there as a back-up” in case problems arise, Harrington explained. They are mostly teachers who know the students and are able to deal with potential difficulties.

Jim Mattel, school board vice president, wondered if the Town of Oyster Bay Public Safety personnel, whose cars are commonly seen round town, might be called in to assist at sporting events and save on yellow coats.

“I never explored that,” Harrington said. “It’s certainly worth looking into.”

Jim Robinson, a school board member, remarked, “You have a responsibility for the decorum of the crowd,” but added that there haven’t been problems.

Castellano suggested that if crowd control is a problem, perhaps there shouldn’t be spectators at events.

Harrington also explained that at Vernon, they would cut back on co-curricular activities other than student council, Leaders’ Club, and intramural sports. In response to a question, from board member Maryann Santos, Harrington replied that such activities as the chess club and the art club would be cut.

There are other anticipated expenses relating to taxes and other issues, Harrington explained. By taking a “calculated risk” and not including them in the budget — because of indications that the district will ultimately not have to pay for them — the district would save $220,000.

At the next meeting, March 19, Harrington noted, the board will consider the issue of revenue.  She also explained that there is still hope that some state aid will be restored.

In other action, the board approved the hiring of a new science and technology learning supervisor, Janna Ostroff, for kindergarten through high school. “We are quite happy,” Harrington said, “to add her to our already amazing team.”

News

Matt Bentz, of Forest Hills, was the winner of the Oyster Festival Raffle that took place as the event ended at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19. He had a choice between winning a 2015 Chrysler 200 three-year lease or $15,000 in cash. He chose the cash. He is the “Perfect Oyster Festival Raffle winner.”

Bentz is a computer systems administrator with Spa Creek Software, a company that writes software for other software developers, and has been to the festival numerous times over the years; in fact, next year he is hoping to sail here on his 24 ft. sailboat. He got it “reasonably” from a friend who was buying up.

Richie Cannata may be best known for his song credits but his name will become a part of history this week. Cannata, a 28-year resident and business owner of Glen Cove, will be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on Thursday, Oct. 23 at The Paramount in Huntington.

As a member of the Billy Joel Band, the saxophone player was propelled to fame in 1975 when he joined the band and played on songs including “New York State of Mind” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”


Sports

The autumn varsity sports season is well on its way in Oyster Bay. Many young athletes have distinguished themselves. Several fine young athletes excelled right out of the gate and were chosen by the Oyster Bay Hight School coaches as Athletes of the Month for October 2014.

Cross Country Coach Kevin Cotter has athletes who consistently qualify for the states. Picking one to honor is a difficult task. Within this impressive group of talented athletes, one stands out: junior Alex Tosi, who recently broke the 17 minute barrier for a 5K course at Bethpage State park with a time of 16:52. This feat has not been accomplished since 2008.

5- and 6-year-old Peanuts

The Little Generals (Peanuts) stepped out into the cold Sunday morning ready to give the home crowd a show as they battled the Bellmore Braves, and that’s just what they did as the Generals beat the Braves 14-7. The teams battled to a first half tie as the Generals’ touchdown came on a 26-yard run by Kody Gehnrich, thanks to great blocks by John (Jack) Grace and Jack Symanski.

In the second half, where the Generals are usually at their best, the defense shut out the Braves as Rodney Hill, Jr. and Brandon Babel stepped in on the defense line to create a great push to allow Francesco Allocca to make eight tackles. The offense got a big boost with Allocca being allowed to play RB after playing QB the past two games, and boy did he respond behind great lead blocking from Luca Granito. Allocca carried the ball nine times for 60 yards and a TD coming on the last play of the game.


Calendar

Boys & Girls Club Gala

Thursday, October 23

Halloween Party

Saturday, October 25

Property Tax Exemptions Workshop

Tuesday, October 28



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com