Mattituck sees titanic money woes

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Jerry Diffley and Jim McKenna at last month's school board meeting.

Imagine Mattituck-Cutchogue school administrators as officers on a ship’s bridge. They see an iceberg dead ahead.

District Superintendent James McKenna is pretty certain that by the time next year’s budget talks are in the works, the administration and School Board will be at the helm of the Titanic.
At last Thursday’s board meeting, Mr. McKenna said that a perfect storm of contractual increases in teacher salaries, major hikes in pension and health insurance costs, coupled with a decrease in state aid and a potential 2 percent tax increase cap proposed by Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo, could sink the district, or at least send some of its teachers into the icy waters of unemployment.

“There were members of the staff on the Titanic who knew there were not enough lifeboats to preserve all the people on the ship,” he said. “We could be cutting 10 teachers. That wouldn’t surprise me, let alone programs. This is serious business.”

He added that the state is planning to charge schools for administering Regents exams next year at a potential cost of $5,500 to $12,000, depending on whether those costs are calculated per student or per test taken.

Mr. McKenna said that the district’s state aid will be cut by $235,000, while increases in teacher salaries alone would likely bring the district’s budget and the tax increase needed to fund it to the proposed 2 percent property tax cap being talked about in Albany.

Earlier that day he attended a meeting of local superintendents who believe Mr. Cuomo is serious about instituting the tax cap.

“At the meeting, I could feel the noose tightening,” he said. “I’m not so sure people really understand. I just don’t think they understand what that really means. … There could be cuts to this district of $500,000 and up.”

Sports discussion postponed

A large group of parents and educators who are in favor of “selection classification,” a set of state guidelines allowing junior high students to play sports at the high school level, came to Thursday night’s meeting. They had intended to present their feelings on the issue, but held off after School Board president Jerry Diffley reported that the board would hold a community discussion on selection classification at its next meeting January 20.

Going paperless

Parents who are waiting anxiously by their mailboxes for their high school students’ interim progress reports can see them by logging onto the internet.

Mattituck High School is planning to make the reports entirely paperless by the end of this year, said Principal Shawn Petretti at Thursday’s board meeting.

Reports can be accessed by setting up a parent account through the “Parent Portal” tab on the district’s website,

Mr. Petretti said the progress reports will not include comments on students’ progress, but will simply show a grade point average for the students’ work so far this quarter. He anticipates that by the time the full second quarter report is due in January, parents will be able to view all of their children’s’ scores online.

“We’ll take the plunge and see where it goes,” said Mr. Petretti of the high school’s plan to go paperless. “At the end of the quarter in January, I’m hoping we can open up the whole grade book so parents can see scores for the second quarter.”

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