The Patchogue-Medford School District could be forced to make nearly five dozen staffing cuts as school officials attempt to reconcile a drop in state aid with an increase in costs.
“The bottom line is we have to cut $9.3 million to have a tax rate of 4 percent,” said Donna Jones, assistant superintendent of business, at a Monday night budget hearing at .
Many of the budget cuts come as a result of a proposed 7.3 percent reduction in state aid, which for the district is about $6.5 million. Rising costs in staffing, health insurance, utilities and other services widens the gap to the $9.3 million figure.
Jones said that she is running through various scenarios in order to make cuts without decimating programs.
As a result of 19 teachers retiring, Jones is recommending only replacing four of the positions resulting in the elimination of 15 positions through attrition.
“In the worst case scenario there would be no less then 57 additional cuts,” Jones said at the meeting, which about a half-dozen people attended.
The cuts may be a combination of teacher, custodial and administrative positions. In a better scenario, Jones said that only 22 to 25 positions may be cut. She added this is contingent on discussions currently going on with the teachers union and any concessions that are made.
One planned cut is to BOCES occupational education programs to current grade 10 students who have not taken any previous BOCES courses. This cut would save the district $1.3 million. Students currently in grades 11 and 12 would continue to have access to the BOCES programs.
Class size increases were also discussed, with classes at the elementary level possibly going from a range of 19 to 24 students up to 22 to 28, Jones said. Superintendent Michael Locantore said that there would not be many classrooms that would hit the 28 mark.
Most classes would remain between 22 to 24 students, with one grade in one building possibly reaching 29 in two sections, officials said.
Locantore emphasized that the potential cuts were being forced upon the district in light of the state aid cut and a proposed tax cap that may take effect in planning the 2012-13 budget.
“I’m going to continue to say this is the governor’s budget, not the superintendent's budget nor the BOE’s budget," Locantore said. "We are looking at all these cuts as this is terrible."
The Board of Education will hold its next public meeting on March 21 at Patchogue-Medford High School at 7:30 p.m. Another budget hearing will be held on March 22 at 7 p.m. in the conference room of South Ocean Middle School.