Mattituck-Cutchogue proposed 2011-12 budget calls for 13 layoffs

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Mattituck-Cutchogue Superintendent James McKenna at Tuesday's board meeting.

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District will lay off 13 workers before the beginning of school in September if the budget proposed by Superintendent James McKenna is adopted.

The layoffs would hit Cutchogue East Elementary School hard, with four general education classroom teachers, four teacher assistants and one special education elementary math teacher slated to be cut from the staff.

The proposed $37,512,977 budget calls for a 2.66 percent spending increase and a 2.53 percent tax increase, which Mr. McKenna said would be the lowest tax rate increase the district had submitted to voters for approval in 37 years. He said the increase would add $126 per year to the taxes on an average house assessed at $600,000.

The first draft of the budget, presented to the school board by Mr. McKenna Tuesday night, also calls for eliminating a part-time music and art teaching position at the elementary school, a part-time high school science teaching position, one groundskeeper and a part-time school nurse at Cutchogue East.

Mr. McKenna said the layoffs could save the district $500,000 next year.

The district chose to focus on reducing staff at Cutchogue East, he said, because the student population there is expected to drop by 42 next year, while the high school student population is expected to decrease by only 21.

The district would cut one first-grade teacher, one third-grade teacher and two sixth-grade teachers and the art and music teachers who would have instructed those classes. Average class sizes for first grade would increase from 17-18 to 19-20. Third-grade class size averages would shrink slightly from 19-20 to 18-19. Sixth-grade classes would bump up from 21-22 students per class to 24-25.

The current budget proposal also calls for consolidating junior high athletic teams so that only one boys’ and one girls’ team in each sport will be offered at the junior high level.

The district plans to save nearly $50,000 by not hiring a contractor to clean the Cutchogue East school building next summer.
Mr. McKenna’s salary is slated to increase from $170,780 to $184,520 under the proposed 2011-12 budget. His four-year contract, signed last February, calls for the superintendent to receive a $7,500 longevity payment on top of his base salary and a 3.5 percent pay increase this year. The following year, his salary is set to rise to $190,980.

Mr. McKenna said this year’s local cuts were the result of a “perfect storm” of cuts in federal and state aid to schools and the expectation that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call to cap property tax increases at 2 percent will be enacted by the New York State Legislature this year.

School board members indicated they were disheartened by the cuts. Janique Nine said she wanted to ensure that the needs of the math students who are being taught by the sixth-grade special education teacher are being met. She said she was also dismayed that art and music would be cut, though assistant superintendent Anne Smith assured her that the positions would no longer be needed because of the reduction in regular classes.

Dr. Smith denied rumors that the elementary school band is slated to be cut in next year’s budget.

Board member Douglas Cooper said he was sorry to see the high school science position cut.

Board president Jerry Diffley said he wished the budget document contained a running total of the amount of money spent in each budget line so far this year, so that the board could have a better idea of whether their budgets are realistic.

He pointed to the fact that the school will likely under-spend this year’s budget by $1.2 million as a perfect example of why just comparing the budgeted lines year-to-year doesn’t give the board an accurate picture of where the school’s money goes.

“If I’m not buying bread this year and at the end of the year I have $1.2 million, where’s it going?” he asked. “If at the end of next year we’re sitting here and looking at a surplus of $1 million, I’m going to be upset with us.”

The board will hold its next budget discussion on Thursday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. in the Junior/Senior High School auditorium.

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