The New Suffolk school board has adopted a $1.09 million 2015-16 budget proposal that would carry an estimated increase of $12,250, or 1.58 percent, over this year’s tax levy.
The school board unanimously approved the proposed budget, which includes a reduction in spending of nearly $44,000, at a special meeting last Thursday.
School board president Tony Dill has said most of the decrease in spending resulted from the board’s recent elimination of Martha Kennelly’s teaching position, effective June 30.
Once Ms. Kennelly returned to the district in September, after about 10 years at the Mid East Suffolk Teacher Center in Ridge, New Suffolk stopped receiving state reimbursement for her salary. That, district officials have said, caused a decline in revenue that helped contribute to a looming $160,000 deficit. Mr. Dill said that scenario, which the district wasn’t prepared for, put it in a difficult situation and forced board members to take action to avoid a 21 percent hike in the tax levy.
Ms. Kennelly, who has been working since her return on drafting Common Core-aligned curriculum for New Suffolk, is fighting to keep her job and has informed the district that she will appeal its decision with the state commissioner of education.
Last Thursday, Ms. Kennelly, a tenured 21-year veteran who has said her salary last year was $115,000, questioned the school board about why it lumped all teacher salaries together in the budget proposal instead of separating salaries for full-time staff and teacher assistants, which is how the district has formatted its expenses for the past few years.
She described the omission as a “disservice to the community.”
Mr. Dill said it wasn’t uncommon for the district to change the way the budget is presented to voters, as well as state officials, and said the recent format change was made at the request of the teachers.
Ms. Kennelly also questioned why the draft minutes for the March 17 special school board meeting omitted certain statements.
In particular, she said, those minutes do not include a statement she made about meeting she had in the summer of 2013 with Mr. Dill and Holly Plymale, who was then the district’s head teacher. At that meeting, Ms. Kennelly says, she told Mr. Dill and Ms. Plymale of her intention to return if there was an opening in the district.
Mr. Dill has said Ms. Kennelly didn’t contact the district about her decision until after the 2014-15 budget vote last May.
When asked for comment about Ms. Kennelly’s claims after last Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Dill refuted her statement and said the issue will be discussed at the next school board meeting, which is scheduled for May 12.
Correction: Ms. Kennelly asked the school board why it changed the budget proposal’s format and no longer lists full-time staff and teacher assistant salaries separately. The Suffolk Times incorrectly reported she requested the salaries of individual teachers.