Adult education, some extra-curricular activities to be cut in Riverhead

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead superintendent Nancy Carney and school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse at a February board meeting.

Riverhead School District adult education classes will be cut, and some athletic programs will be combined to keep the 2012-13 district budget under the 2 percent tax levy cap, officials announced at a budget workshop last week.

The adult education program will be cut completely, dropping by 83.75 percent from this year’s budget down to $15,000 next year. The technical and career education budget will be cut by 22.56 percent, while the school’s athletics and extra-curricular activities budgets will be slashed by 5.51 and 14.62 percent, respectively.

District superintendent Nancy Carney said the proposed cuts would reduce programs as little as possible, and were cuts made across the board to make sure no programs outside of adult education were eliminated.

“Our focus was on students,” Ms. Carney said. “The board’s goal and priority was really to preserve programs for students so we had to make that difficult decision.”

She said the budget constraints mean the district will make “slight reductions” of co- and extra-curricular activities at the high school and middle school, and will eliminate after-school programs at all elementary schools.

Several of the teams, such as the JV and varsity golf teams, will be combined into one team playing a varsity schedule.

“Kids will still have the opportunity, instead of two teams they’ll just be one team,” she said. Additional cuts to athletic programs would impact supplies and equipment, and some paid assistant coaching positions would be eliminated.

None of the school’s arts, music, or language programs will be cut, Ms. Carney said, though each department will now have to work with a smaller budget.

“We did percentage cuts across the board,” she said. “So in other words the music department did cut a percentage of things, but the director chooses what those things will be. We’re still holding all programs.”

And although adult education has been cut from district schools, drivers education will still remain and the H.B. Ward Technical Center will continue to provide adult education classes.

The cuts are the latest in a series of cost-saving proposals to keep the district under the state-mandated 2 percent tax levy cap by trimming more than $3.2 million from the 2012-13 school district 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.

In February, the district cut $1.9 million from next year’s budget after they fired 21 employees, including 12 teachers and nine teaching assistants. 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.

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

A previous district proposal would combine the Riverhead Middle School and Pulaski Street School bus runs and combine bus stops to  save an additional $300,000.

The next and final budget session will be held at the Riverhead school board meeting Tuesday, where Ms. Carney will discuss revenues for the 2012-13 school year and the projected tax levy for the district.

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