Summer enrichment cut, sports teams combined to save money in Southold

Suffolk Times File Photo | Southold School District Superintendent David Gamberg.

In an effort to cut costs, Southold will likely not run an elementary school summer enrichment program next year, and will offer only combined seventh- and eighth-grade volleyball and basketball teams rather than separate teams for each grade.

At its second budget hearing Wednesday night, district administrators unveiled a $26.39 million spending plan, an increase of 2.78 percent over last year’s $25.67 million budget.

If the numbers are unchanged when the plan goes before voters in May, the tax levy will increase by 2.42 percent, which Superintendent David Gamberg said was “within striking distance” of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2 percent cap on annual school property tax increases. The state Legislature’s vote on the cap may not come until after school districts complete their budgets this spring.

But according to district business administrator Steve Harrison, the tax rate increase will likely be a higher 3.09 percent. The reason, he said, is that the total assessed value of properties in Southold decreased by $200,000 since last year’s tax rolls were prepared.

There would be some sacrifices in the school’s offerings as a result of the tight budget, but the district will hire an athletic trainer with first aid certification to be present at varsity games to help any injured students. New cameras are also being purchased for the school’s budding photography program, the high school library is being updated and e-readers will be purchased for students with individualized education programs.

Mr. Gamberg has offered to take a pay freeze at $175,000 for next year, according to school board president Paulette Ofrias. He has now volunteered for pay freezes during two of his three years with the district. Salaries throughout the district are slated to rise by about 3 percent due to contractual obligations.

“We’re very sensitive to the children and any impact the budget has on their chance to be successful,” Mr. Gamberg said. “Any budget is always a work in progress. If last year is any guide, we’ll be back in April with further revisions.”
The school’s next budget work session is scheduled for April 13 at 7:30 p.m.

On Wednesday, each of the school’s department heads gave a breakdown of the changes anticipated in next year’s budget.
Elementary school principal Ellen Waldron-O’Neill said the district will save $33,000, mostly in salaries, by eliminating the Summer SAIL academic enrichment program.

“It’s not necessarily something I’m happy about taking out, but we’re trying to not cut programs during the school year,” she said.

Parent Deanna Walker said she is concerned that students who can’t take advantage of Summer SAIL will not retain much of what they’d learned the previous year. Mr. Gamberg said district surveys taken before and after the program to determine how it impacts students’ retention of information were inconclusive. He added that many students in the well-off district are exposed to other enriching activities in the summer.

“Summer regression is proportional to the wealth of the community,” he said.

Junior/senior high school principal William Galati said his school will not hold Saturday detention and will decrease the number of in-school suspension sessions, saving on overtime expenses. That’s made possible by a 20 percent decrease in referrals to detention and in-school suspensions this year, Mr. Galati said.

Improvements at the junior/senior high school library include a new circulation desk and a work station with two computers for students, slated to cost $6,000.

The district also anticipates a decrease in students classified for special education, which will likely save money, said director of pupil personnel services Cindy Allentuck.

This year, 134 of the district’s 869 students received some form of individualized education services. Ms. Allentuck anticipates that 123 students will need extra services next year.

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