Barring a last-minute infusion of state funding, two popular Greenport teachers won’t be on the faculty in September, both victims of budget cuts. Their jobs were cut because they were the most recently hired teachers in their departments.
By a 4 to 1 vote, board members adopted a $13.8 million budget proposal Wednesday, April 21, that essentially would freeze spending and carry a 4.5 percent tax increase. The tax hike would have been higher if board members had restored the $140,579 required to keep the two faculty members, English teacher Luke Conti and gym teacher and coach Todd Gulluscio.
Two students left the board meeting in tears after the vote.
Some 75 students had pleaded with board members the previous week to retain the two teachers, even if it meant making cuts in sports programs.
A letter to the board from 2007 Greenport graduate Danielle Aviva-Millman and first-year board member Daniel Creedon’s arguments for keeping the teachers didn’t move the others from their determination to hold the line on spending.
“I’m insulted that you even considered getting rid of Mr. Conti,” Ms. Aviva-Millman wrote in her letter, which student Zoe Panagopoulos read to the board. Ms. Panagopoulos said the reason so few students attended Wednesday night’s meeting was that they had been disappointed the previous week, feeling the board wouldn’t be swayed.
“Nothing anybody has said has fallen on deaf ears,” board president Heather Wolf replied. “To be a responsible board member, you have to be dispassionate.” She added that the board could not base its decisionon the popularity of particular teachers.
“I’m disappointed with where we are,” Mr. Creedon said, defending the teachers. “This kind of teaching is what has made this school special. At the end of the day, the question is, who do we want to teach our kids?”
But with the need to ask taxpayers to approve a bond issue later this year to pay for critical replacement and repair work on the building, other board members said they couldn’t justify funding the two teaching positions.
Greenport board members will outline their budget proposal for voters at a meeting on Tuesday, May 11, at 7 p.m. Voting on budgets and school board seats in all districts takes place a week later, on Tuesday, May 18
Southold Board of Education members agreed on April 21 to ask voters to approve a $25.67 million budget for the next school year. That’s $117,916 above the current spending plan and calls for a tax rate hike of 1.24 percent.
While the board decided against seeking givebacks from the teaching staff and other union employees, Superintendent David Gamberg previously noted that district employees are now contributing toward their medical insurance. Rather than accept pay cuts, union employees agreed to work longer hours.
Southold’s board will explain the budget during a special meeting on Wednesday, May 5, at 7:30 p.m. The district’s regular work session will follow that hearing.
With six additional high school students moving to the district over the summer, the proposed bottom line for New Suffolk Elementary school’s 2010-11 budget ended up being $788,704, a proposed spending increase of $62,799, or 8.6 percent, over this year’s budget of $725,926. New Suffolk taxpayers have to pay out-of-district tuition for seventh- through 12th-grade students living in the district.
“We had to severely redo our budget once these unanticipated tuition costs came up,” school board president Tony Dill said this week. “We’ve seen a significant increase in our secondary students over the years, which has driven costs over which we have no control.”
The budget vote for all districts is May 18. In Greenport, voting will be from 2 to 8 p.m.; in all other districts, polls will be open from 3 to 9 p.m.