Here come the layoffs: Riverhead first North Fork district to hand out pink slips

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead School officials announced this week that 21 staffers will lose their jobs next year in an effort to get under the tax cap.

Twelve Riverhead teachers and nine teaching assistants received pink slips Friday afternoon to save costs as the school district wrestles with trimming $3.2 million from their budget to stay under the state tax cap, officials said.

The 21 employees were told on Friday afternoon they would not have a position in September, said district superintendent Nancy Carney in an email Monday. Two elementary teachers, two math teachers, and one science, one English learning arts, one home and careers, one special education, one special education testing, one health and one technology teacher were told they’d be cut.

“It is incredibly frustrating to me as an educator that any of these cuts had to be made,” Ms. Carney said. “What is perhaps most upsetting to me is that none of these people are being laid off for cause; they are each excellent employees who contribute to the education of our students.”

Ms. Carney said the district is working with faculty unions to save more for next year’s budget and she said she remains hopeful that retirements from current staff, substitutes, attrition and other methods would allow some of the teachers to return. Last year, 13 teachers were cut, though seven eventually returned to work at the district, Ms. Carney said. Four administrative positions were also cut last year, and were not replaced.

The superintendent said the faculty cuts would lead to bigger class sizes, adding that while the district did not want to increase class size, “with the provisions of the new tax cap levy law, larger class sizes are an unfortunate reality.”

The cuts were needed to keep the district under the tax levy cap, Ms. Carney said. The tax cap limits the increase of the district’s tax levy — the amount of money the district collects from taxpayers — at 2 percent.

The cap, which became New York State law in 2011, can only be exceeded based on certain contractual increases, and with the approval of 60 percent of voters, although Ms. Carney said the district will not exceed the cap next year. Capital improvements, such as last year’s voter-approved $78.3 million school bond for infrastructure upgrades, are exempt from the tax levy cap.

Representatives from the Riverhead teacher’s union did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story. Riverhead Central Faculty Association president Barbara Barosa told on Friday that she was “extremely disappointed that I was not given more lead time and was not informed until … after some of my members had been notified they were losing their jobs.”

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