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BOE Weighing Cuts As Budget Deadline Approaches

Eight period day at middle schools, furloughs among the items trustees are reviewing as April 17 deadline looms.

Facing a $1.7 million budget gap, the West Islip Board of Education must now make a final decision on budget cuts that one trustee called “the least of all evils.”

Among the major items up for consideration is shifting to an eight period day at the middle school level and implementing two furlough days in the 2013-14 school year. Those items alone would result in a cost savings of $1.322 million. In addition, board trustees also are reviewing a list of smaller cuts to other program areas.

With the proposed spending plan needing to be approved by April 17, board president Steve Gellar said trustees must now “make the cuts required to bring the budget in under the tax cap.”

During his opening remarks at Monday’s budget work session, Gellar noted that board has been in discussion with the teacher’s union seeking some contractual concessions in an effort to close the budget gap and possibly spare the district of some cuts.

“The board is still in discussion with the teacher’s union…but there is nothing positive to report at this time,” he said. “The teachers are unwilling to commit to a plan that will preserve both jobs and educational opportunities.”

Through the budget formation process that began publicly in February, board members and administrators were hopeful that additional state aid and the issue of pension smoothing would help reduce the financial burden facing the school district.

Gellar noted that the additional $150,000 in state aid West Islip will receive coupled with the resolution of the pension smoothing issue did little to close a budget gap that had been nearly $2 million.

This year, West Islip’s pension costs are rising $3 million, a figure that is set by the state. School officials were hopeful that a small decrease in the percentage the school district would be required to pay to the pension system would provide some relief.

However, the plan approved by state lawmakers was of no financial help to the school district, and in fact, would cause more financial pain in the years ahead, school officials said.

One area of concern for some residents in attendance at Monday’s budget work session was the projected classes size at the fourth and fifth grade level in some schools for the coming school year.

At Paul J. Bellew, the average class size in fourth grade will be 26.25 students while fifth grade will be 26.6 students. Bayview’s fifth grade average class size will be 25.3 students and Manetuck’s fourth grade class size will average 25 students.

While board of education members were in agreement with residents that they would like to see these class sizes lower, adding four sections to lower the average class sizes would cost more than $300,000.  

However, Superintendent Richard Simon, said the average class sizes at the three schools fall within recommended levels. He noted that guidelines in the current teacher’s contract allow for an average of between 24 and 27 students at the fourth and fifth grade level.

The next board of education meeting is set for Wednesday, April 17, 8 p.m. at the high school. Trustees will adopt the proposed budget that will then go before voters on Super Tuesday, May 21.

A video of Monday’s meeting is now available on the school district’s website.

Walter Isaacs April 14, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Facts are facts and the fact of the matter is that we need to start electing some people to the Board who want to actually start looking out for the tax payers and the students. A Tea party candidate who believes in limited government, who believes that public sector unions could care less about the plight of the taxpayers, who would not rubber stamp with a yes vote every single raise and stipend increase, who would fight to eliminate the ridiculous and redundant IB program and who would actually have some fresh new ideas as opposed to the excuse ridden tax and spend Board we have been saddled with for years, would be a welcome change. Turns out that Tea party candidate last year was right about a lot of things.
Walter Isaacs April 14, 2013 at 09:07 PM
@the fake Walter Isaacs it is a shame you would seek to impersonate me and sully my reputation. Facts are what Facts are and the Tea Party xenophobic tax evading/avoiding candidate would have been a disaster for this district. It says quite a bit when his supporters, if that is your relationship to him, resort to impersonating someone to say that he was right about a lot of things. Just saying, next time you see him you may want to ask him if he knows anything about puffery.
Walter Isaacs April 16, 2013 at 10:56 PM
The District is almost $2 million in the hole this year, after being over $6 million in the hole last year (and the subsequent cutting of services to our students, particularly the most vulnerable and youngest with the closing of two elementary schools) mostly because our BOE over the years has chosen to be fiscally irresponsible with the raises and perks it has granted to District employees. Know what is disastrous for this District? Not someone who ran for a seat on the Board but did not win, oh no... the disaster has been right there with our own BOE and their wanton spending with utter disregard for the taxpayers of this town. I also seem to recall another Walter around here, as well as some other hysterical residents, who were very upset when a community member posted videos of the BOE meeting on youtube back in the fall but suddenly they are silent when the Board itself posts the videos now. Where's the outrage now? Hypocrites. I seem to recall that it was that candidate who ran and lost last year that had that as one of his central campaign ideas. That is to make the meetings accessible to those who could not attend. Kudos to the BOE for finally doing it, even if it happened only after they realized that people were going to do it anyway either with their support or not.
Walter Isaacs April 16, 2013 at 10:57 PM
So "Nomo", fake "Walter", and all the "Rest" of you hysterical, name calling, fear mongering bullies...your biased stupidity is glaring through right now as we watch our students suffer with yet another failed budget fueled by struggling residents on the backs of our kids. You have chosen to defend the status quo by denigrating and insulting those with a different view thereby exposing yourselves as the ideologue(s) you are. Meanwhile our town suffers, I mean my town (because God knows where you really live), suffers yet again.

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