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Jan 25, 2011 6:53 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eastport South Manor School District Braces For Budget Cuts

Jan 25, 2011 6:53 PM

Eastport South Manor Superintendent of Schools Mark A. Nocero said that he may have to cut jobs in order to have a workable budget for the 2011-12 school year.

Mr. Nocero said he hopes to keep next year’s spending plan at $81.1 million, equal to the current year’s budget, but is facing an increase in personnel costs of about $4 million and new construction debt of about $1.5 million next year.

“When you look at the school district, 70 percent of our budget is people,” Mr. Nocero said. “To think that we’re going to be able to find $5.5 million without considering personnel would be unrealistic.”

He declined to say how many teachers or staff members could be cut.

Mr. Nocero said he and Assistant Superintendent for Business Richard Snyder are currently “looking at each and every dollar,” before considering where any potential cuts would come from.

The district is facing a $1.1 million increase in teacher retirement benefits, a $750,000 jump in health insurance costs, a $114,000 increase in general employee retirement costs, and a $1.5 million bump in staff salaries. In addition, the district is responsible for $1.5 million in new debt payments to cover recent districtwide improvements.

At a Board of Education meeting on January 19, board members expressed concern about whether the cuts would affect academic integrity, as well as the number of extracurricular activities that students participate in.

“We know there’s got to be cuts this year,” School Board Vice President Arthur Abbate said. “I think that we need to try to avoid affecting the children. We work very hard to build the curriculum here. I hate to see a loss in any areas.”

Board member Janet Stevens said that cutting arts and athletic programs would not be an acceptable solution.

Mr. Nocero said he expects to unveil his preliminary budget to the Board of Education at its February 8 meeting. Though he usually aims to provide a budget before the end of January, Mr. Nocero said this year’s spending plan will be delayed due to a forthcoming announcement from Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding state aid levels for the upcoming year. The governor’s budget is expected to slash funding and spending around the state. It is unclear how the cuts will impact schools.

School administrators are also concerned about how the district will cope with an absence of federal stimulus money which runs out this year. The school district received $1.6 million from the federal government this year and, according to Mr. Nocero, that money has dried up.

In addition, the amount of financial aid that the district has received from the state has been steadily shrinking over the last five years, according to Mr. Nocero. Last year, the district received $28.5 million to subsidize spending for the 2010-11 school year. District officials could not immediately provide state aid figures for the past five years.

“We on Long Island pay our state taxes and [the state has] a system where the money is then distributed to the schools and is blatantly unfair to Long Island school districts,” Mr. Nocero said. “We have 17 percent of the kids, and we get 12 percent of state aid.”

It is unclear when district officials will learn how much state aid it will receive for the upcoming 2011-12 school year, as a final figure is typically not determined until after the State Legislature approves the state budget—which may take months. Last year, district administrators learned of its share of state aid after the public had already voted in May on the school budget for this year. According to Mr. Nocero, not having this information made drafting the budget even more difficult.

After Mr. Nocero submits his preliminary budget to the board in early February, it will become the board’s working budget document. From that document, the board will weigh each and every cut, including the entire spending plan for the upcoming year. Presentations on different parts of the budget will take place at Board of Education meetings over the next couple of months and, after any changes are made, the board will adopt the budget. After this process, the board will present the finished product as a draft budget for the district, and allow residents to vote on it.

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Why are salaries going up when everyone else in the country are getting by with less and less. There should be no salary increases and all personnel in the district should be footing more of their health care costs. Lets wake up folks this inefficient school system needs drastic change.
By maxwell (169), speonk on Jan 26, 11 11:45 AM
"Education costs money, but then so does ignorance."
-- Sir Claus Moser

By sherbrooke (2), eastport on Feb 1, 11 7:52 PM