Carney: Teachers are getting cut, but programs will remain intact

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead superintendent Nancy Carney, left, and Board of Education president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse at Wednesday night's meeting.

Despite laying off 21 employees spread across district schools, Riverhead superintendent Nancy Carney assured the Board of Education at their Wednesday night meeting that programs will not be cut next school year.

The layoffs, she said, are simply a sign of the times.

“We’re not making these cuts because we want to,” Ms. Carney said. “We’re making these cuts because these are the times that we’re in.”

The teacher layoffs come as part of a series of cuts designed to keep the district under the 2 percent tax levy cap by cutting more than $3.2 million from the 2012-13 budget. The cap, made law in New York State in 2011, limits the amount the district can collect from taxpayers at a 2 percent increase or less from year to year.

On Feb. 10, the school district handed out pink slips to 12 teachers and nine teaching assistants for the 2012-13 school year. Among those cut were two elementary school teachers, two private special education teachers, one middle school english teacher, one middle school guidance counselor, one technology teacher, one high school science teacher, one high school math teacher, one middle school health teacher, and one high school home and careers teacher.

The cuts will trim about $1.9 million from the school’s budget. A previous proposal to combine the Riverhead Middle School and Pulaski Street School bus runs would save an additional $300,000. The remaining cuts will be spread among different departments, she said, adding that each department in all district schools have been asked to cut their budgets by 10 percent for next year.

Ms. Carney said no programs will be cut due to the layoffs, but that some classes will be offered less often. For example, instead of having two home and careers teachers in the high school, there will be only one, meaning there will be less class times offered for students to pick from.

At the middle school, the school day will be shortened from nine periods to eight. The day will still begin and end at the same time, but each period will be slightly longer, Ms. Carney said. English and math classes, which were offered as double periods on certain days, will become one period each day.

Riverhead Central Faculty Association president Barbara Barosa asked the board how the district will make academic intervention services available to students in need of extra time in math and English. Ms. Carney said the district was still working on a solution, but promised the services will be offered.

And while Riverhead schools are currently close to the contractual maximum for class sizes, Ms. Carney said the district will not exceed the limit in the 2012-13 school year.

According to Ms. Carney’s presentation, teacher’s salaries will drop by 1.81 percent to about $31.5 million because of the cuts. Non-instructional salaries will decrease by nearly 30 percent, while BOCES costs will be lessened by about 17 percent. However, charter school tuition is expected to rise just over 6 percent, decreasing overall general classroom costs 2.05 percent compared to this year’s budget.

A resident asked the board if the teachers salaries could be put up as a bond to be voted on separately by district residents, but Ms. Carney said there was no way around the tax cap. The district could exceed the 2 percent tax levy limit with a 60 percent supermajority, but if that failed, the district may face a 0 percent tax levy cap, which would lead to an additional $2.5 to $3 million in cuts.

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