Mattituck school chief says surplus won’t cover lost state aid

02/19/2011 2:39 PM |

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District will likely spend $1.3 million below what’s budgeted this year, but district officials say the governor’s assertion that districts have enough reserve funds to make up for state aid cuts is false.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2011  budget would slash Mattituck’s state aid by about $424,000. In addition, the district must pay $400,000 more into the state employee retirement fund next year, and also faces contractual increases in salaries and other increased operating expenses, Superintendent James McKenna said during Thursday’s school board meeting.

If the district taps its fund balance to keep taxes from rising, there will be little left to cover unforeseen expenses in years to come, Mr. McKenna added.

Mattituck’s draft 2011-12 budget is to be released during a March 8 special meeting. Late last year Mr. McKenna said the new budget will call for the elimination of 10 jobs. He did not say how many of them might be teachers.

The district has done a good job keeping spending below the budget in recent years, and has already tightened its belt to the point where it will not be able to replenish the fund balance by further spending reductions, Mr. McKenna told the board.

In addition, he said $200,000 of the current fund balance is attributed to three long-time teachers taking advantage of an early retirement incentive last summer, a windfall that came after this year’s budget passed and is not likely to be repeated.

The district used $900,000 in fund reserves to offset the tax rate hike in the current school year’s budget.

Mr. McKenna did note that a much-rumored 2 percent property tax cap proposed by the governor will likely not be passed by the state Legislature in time to affect the 2011-12 school budget.

Still, he said, the district must consider long terms needs when deciding how to spend its anticipated reserve funds in light of the likelihood that the cap will pass later this year.

“At some point … there’ll be nothing left,” Mr. McKenna said.

He added in an interview Friday that the drastic choices some school districts have had to face — including the layoff of a third of the teaching staff at the Sachem School and the 40 staff positions proposed to be cut in Riverhead — could force the legislature to examine other school reforms in conjunction with the tax cap. They include reworking the state pension system, providing relief from unfunded mandates and picking up more of districts’ special education costs.

“I think the state’s not going to let the districts fall off the cliff,” he said. “My prediction is that what’s going to happen is all these topics are going to be on the table.”

In other business, school officials gave tours Thursday of the district’s new Mac lab, which has 60 new Macintosh computers in two rooms in the upstairs technology rooms where the school’s morning TV show is taped.

Technology teacher John Roslak and technology director Gerri Doherty have been working to allow all the computers in the lab to interface seamlessly with one another. While the computers are able to “talk to each other,” Mr. Roslak said that it hasn’t been easy for people using the computers to transfer their knowledge of PCs to the Macs.

“The terminology is totally different,” he said. “You have to learn almost a different language.”

The computers also use different programs. Students had been editing video using FinalCut Pro on the PCs, but are gradually learning to use the Adobe Premiere video editing program on the Macs, though Mr. Roslak said that many students are having a hard time making the adjustment to the new programs.

School Board president Jerry Diffley commented that social media sites, long belittled by many as a waste of time, have now begun to play a major role in world events, such as the recent revolution in Egypt, making it more important than ever that students leave Mattituck with a broad-based knowledge of how computers work.

“Every corporation is going to this technology,” said assistant superintendent Anne Smith. She added that many college courses now require students to complete part of their coursework through internet communications.

“It’s not to be taken lightly,” said Mr. Roslak of the new technology, as he listed a number of his former students who are now working in television production and computer design-related fields. “To communicate visually is so important.”

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19 Comment

  • I think you mean Andrew Cuomo, not Papa Mario.

  • Again, my violin is playing……why are we paying for an additional $400,000 into the state employee retirement account? Tell the state employees that “unfortunately you will have to open up a 401K and contribute to your retirement yourselves…” That what all other Southold Residents do for their retirement. More violins will be playing as the NYS budget starts to crumble. The public is tired of these spending practices.


    Agency Last, First Position YTDPay
    Southold Allen, Marianne $107,432
    Southold Beebe, Theodore O $168,922
    Southold Bopp, Robert J $126,982
    Southold Brewer, William A $119,035
    Southold Buonaiuto, Richard J $110,120
    Southold Cochran Jr, Carlisle E $174,131
    Southold Conway Jr, Joseph A $143,827
    Southold Di Candia, Peter J $113,124
    Southold Flatley, Martin $161,427
    Southold Franke, James D $117,404
    Southold Gillan, Sean M $112,264
    Southold Ginas, James A $165,764
    Southold Grathwohl, Edward D $146,738
    Southold Grattan, Steven M $107,524
    Southold Harned, Steven L $138,096
    Southold Helinski, William E $111,498
    Southold Hudock, Thomas F $124,614
    Southold Jacobs, Peter J $103,262
    Southold Jernick Jr, Richard E $121,235
    Southold Johnson, Todd W $107,940
    Southold Kruszeski Jr, Frank R $157,469
    Southold Latham, Scott $115,952
    Southold Lyburt I I I, Frank $117,241
    Southold Lynch, Kevin J $141,216
    Southold MacKey, Daniel A $120,628
    Southold Mc Gowan, Timothy J $113,205
    Southold Mc Namara, Brian P $113,362
    Southold Mele, Frank J $128,322
    Southold Okula, David M $114,870
    Southold Onufrak, Peter C $118,809
    Southold Perkins, Richard A $148,762
    Southold Richert, Kenneth D $113,090
    Southold Rogers, Francis J $131,850
    Southold Santacroce Jr, Henry F $151,430
    Southold Sawicki, Howard W $152,907
    Southold Sinning Jr, John D $148,691
    Southold Springer, Ryan L $121,619
    Southold Stanzoni, Laura L $100,940
    Southold Wilinski, Roman S $112,799
    Southold Wysocki, Joseph S $114,434
    Southold Zuhoski, Steven $133,862

  • and The Good Superintendent James McKenna’s salary is?

  • Dear Mr. McKenna, and the rest of the Mattituck – Cutchogue School Board:

    Do you remember, not so long ago, when you and your immediate predecessors screamed from the rafters that you had solid research that the school aged population in Mattituck – Cutchogue was going to rise significantly, and that this very drastic rise in student population necessitated you asking for a $39 million bond issue, which we the taxpayers later lowered, against your will, to around $26 million. Yes, that $26 million dollar bond issue that was simply a requirement to upgrade the facilities and pay for the space for all the new students that you insisted were going to come to our district? Well read on:

    “According to the The New York State School Report Card for 2009-2010, enrollment in Mattituck, a K-12 District, dropped to 1,514 in 2010, compared to 1,614 students in the 2007-2008 school year and 1,581 in the 2004-2005 school year.”

    So now, honestly, the fact that you are short of money, let alone short on foresight, is your problem, not ours. It is the problem of your employees, who will be partially laid off, it is the problem of your students, who, in addition to not having a $3 million dollar wrestling room, will also have to do with less, and, the good Lord willing, it will soon be the problem of each of you personally, as you are held accountable for your mismanagement, and voted out of office.

  • So from what I see, when he does decide to retire, not only he, but his wife also GETS 100% HEALTH INSURANCE!
    What is this Board thinking?

  • The recipients of this largesse will tell you “we won’t GET insurance at that age we’ll be on MEDICARE”, however we all know about donut holes and supplementary plans that they will not be paying for.

  • Yawwwnnn……
    Same old story. The superentendent will save us from gloom and doom at the last minute and be our saviour. Shouldnt he get ANOTHER RAISE?
    This reporter is in Mckennas back pocket.
    Watch the meeting on channel 22 this week and see what really happened at the meeting.

  • Given the headline of this article I am not at all sure the reporter was at the same meeting and heard the same presentation I did. The District superintendent made it quite clear that the budget was likely to be met by the surplus, he went further and illustrated with a spreadsheet, that he did not distribute to the audience watching or post online, how the fund balance could last several years into the future.

    He also noted that in the future he will need to make a more realistic budget that will not allow him to build up the fund due to over budgeting that creates carryovers each year! He stressed he will need to run a tight budget! Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

    It won’t be easy and there will be hard choices and many costs are mandated. This should not be news to anyone who has been awake for even just a few hours over the last years, even if your name is Chicken Little or one of the myriad other mythical creatures that came to mind watching that presentation.

    He did seem quite concerned that we, the uncomprehending public, did not understand that the balance would decrease over time as we spent it (yes, he really did seem convinced that the average taxpayer could not understand that if you spend money it is gone from your balance).

    Jim also appears to have a rather erratic strategy for communicating the true fiscal state of the district. Check out his “Superintendents Early Winter” letter written in late November and posted on the schools website that makes this claim: “The budget process is beginning with the Mattituck-Cutchogue District in very sound financial shape to weather the pending fiscal storm that is facing the state and region……..

    Shortly after that letter was written we started hearing in this paper and elsewhere about the Titanic and his fearless leadership as the ship was heading to certain budgetary disaster.

    Which is it? We all know the iceberg is there and have known it for a while. The question seems to be if he is aware of it or will be taken by surprise. Or as one board member asked him to no avail, “So, when will we hit the iceberg?”.

    My share of taxes approaches $8,000 per year for a small 1,100 ft house (and I have no children so I am a net contributer to the school budget). I think we should work hard to offer the best education and training to all students in the district; this includes paying teachers and support staff wages that will attract quality employees.

    I do object to being lectured to as if I cannot add, and I object to listening to constant doubletalk from the district employee who is charged with managing the financial health of the district. We don’t seem to see this same level of inconsistency & hysteria from other local districts (with some notable exceptions now and then), how come?

    Please watch the board meetings when they are shown on the public access channel, or better yet go to the meetings and ask questions. We are promised that soon we will be able to view the board meetings on demand on the school’s website – a good step toward badly needed increased transparency from this school administration. This months meeting would be a good place to start watching to see the curious presentation the man made.

    I encourage all involved in public employment of any kind to be willing to consider what new strategies will work given the realities we face with costs and entitlements. We need to change the paradigm as we go forward and will not be able to do it without developing new communication and new answers and it seems perhaps new leadership. We clearly need to transition to some new model, lets try hard to do it in a constructive way and not choose the same destructive path as Chicken Little.

    Sometimes leaders should lead the way, not taking only the credit for the good but by sharing the pain too. One thing that I did not hear in Jim’s presentation was even the whiff of any willingness to take a pay freeze himself. In past years the Mattituck teachers did take a pay cut and freeze in the past I believe, they should be recognized for their willingness to be good partners in finding new solutions.

    I encourage Jim McKenna and all involved with these serious questions and challenges to take a deep breath, calm down and start talking to us like adults with clarity and consistency. It would not hurt for Jim to lead by example and take a pay freeze, if not a cut. It is his turn to get in line; we are watching. My bet is he takes the easy way out and retires.

  • Celia Werner is on the RIGHT side, Caitlyn Maio on left.

  • I can understand residents expecting the worst, but why not grant a temporary permit on a trial basis and see what happens? If the town handles this responsibly we can look forward to an enjoyable venue for summer music in our town. This could be a good thing.

  • The Town can have weekly concerts at St. Anthony’s, which I can hear 1/2 mile away, yet Tommy’s place a credit to downtown Rocky Point cannot have some guitar players? Please…

  • I think if it stays truly acoustic, it may bring a nice atmosphere to town.

  • I think that is a great idea.

  • I think that is a great idea.

  • Don’t underestimate the coalition of the stupid in North Shore Beach.

    They’re the same morons that like things just the way they are/were.The sad reality is that they are losing steam as newer, smarter and more affluent folks move in who want far more from their North Shore hamlet than bikers, bungalows and old fat alkys swimming is sewage at Friendship Beach.

    Kudos to Tommys for taking a chance on RP thats paid off. Downtown’s really starting to make some progress but there’s plenty more to do. I cant think of a spot on LI with more upside to invest in.The old guard who’s made a living on slumlording just needs to go away ..and now. Once you realize whos behind the curtain its really easy to spot the real estate ruse fortunately for us theyre not long for this earth anyway.

    Damn the torpedoes and rock on Rocky Point….youre looking good.

    Little by slowly.

  • This variance is for outdoor music, not for an increase in allowable capacity. We should be encouraging local businesses to do all they can to reach their potential. Current parking rules allow for ample parking in a private parking lot with additional street parking. As for pedestrians, I believe there are sidewalks in this area. Can someone verify this?