Oysterponds unveils tentative $5.8 million budget

The Oysterponds Board of Education Wednesday night unveiled a tentative budget proposal that all agreed will have to undergo some major changes before it’s presented to voters for approval in May.

The plan would increase spending 5.47 percent, from $5.5 million this year to $5.8 million in 2011-2012.

It does not include raises for teachers, which are still being negotiated, or $50,000 for professional development that board members and acting superintendent Joan Frisicano have agreed is needed to prepare teachers for major curriculum changes mandated by the state. One is the new Response to Intervention program to help students unable to keep up with their coursework.

Ms. Frisicano said she had no role in preparing the plan, which was drafted by district clerk Melissa Palermo and business adviser Jennifer Ditta. Usually, a superintendent prepares the initial draft budget, but last month then-superintendent Stuart Rachlin left the district.

With salaries and benefits accounting for about 48 percent of the budget, total spending is only an estimate until a contract agreement is reached. The draft budget includes raises for years of service and for added courses teachers may take on, but any annual increase that will be applied to salaries can’t be included until a contract is settled.

At the board’s request, Ms. Frisicano drafted a list of cuts that she said could be made if the board elected to propose a “bare bones” budget. According to her list, the district could cut hours for speech therapy and counseling and roll back the English as a second language program. Math assistance to students could also be cut back, as could instrumental music.

The cuts would amount to “squeezing out pieces of people,” she said, referring to reducing the hours of some teachers.
Also, slashing the budget would undermine all of the long-term educational goals the board set the week before, said board member Krista de Kerillis.

Ms. Frisicano agreed, saying that a cutback in speech therapy alone would adversely affect about 15 students.

The board’s next budget session is Wednesday, March 23, at 7 p.m.

[email protected]