New Suffolk school officials say they’ve found a way to partially close an unanticipated $150,000 deficit caused by a unique situation — one in which a special assignment teacher has decided to return to the district — and will mostly likely have to finance the remaining portion of the budget gap.
During the Board of Education’s regular meeting Tuesday night, school board president Tony Dill said a recent decision not to replace Holly Plymale, the former head teacher who recently resigned for health reasons, and a reduction in tuition costs realized because a couple students moved out of the district, adds up to the bulk of a $65,000 net savings for the current 2014-15 budget.
The elementary school district, however, is struggling to find a way to come up with the remaining $85,000, Mr. Dill said.
“What you should be aware of,” Mr. Dill explained to the audience, “is that although other schools routinely borrow money, that money is borrowed against the approved tax revenues in the future. In our case, the money involved in the deficit has not been approved in the budget by the voters, so there’s no certainty on the part of a lender that we will, in fact, have the money to pay them back.
“We understand that time is very short and we’re working as hard as we can to come up with some sort of resolution quickly that makes sense for our students, for the community, and which we can afford to pay.”
In July, the school board learned that Martha Kennelly, a New Suffolk teacher who’s been on special assignment elsewhere for 10 years, has decided to return to the district. Through the special assignment employment arrangement, the district had paid Ms. Kennelly’s $146,000 salary and benefits but was later reimbursed by the county.
Now that she has decided to return to New Suffolk Elementary School, Mr. Dill said, the district is no longer entitled to the county’s refund and is now responsible to pay her salary and benefits.
Ms. Kennelly had been director at the Mid East Suffolk Teacher Center in Ridge since 2004. The center provides professional development, technology training and resources to Suffolk County educators.
Teachers on special assignment at the center remain contracted faculty members in their home districts, enabling them to return to their previous jobs if desired — or if the center program encounters budget cuts.
Ms. Kennelly has said she wrote to the board in May after learning from a Suffolk Times article that the head teacher had resigned.
Mr. Dill said the district currently has three full-time teachers and a full-time teacher assistant on staff for the upcoming school year. During the budget process, the school board had agreed to hire a second teacher assistant and a foreign language teacher, but Mr. Dill said those hires have been put on hold due to the current budget situation.
“Whether or not we will be able to afford hiring any of them is uncertain,” he said.
On Tuesday, the school board hired Amy Greene as the district’s new gym teacher to replace Peggy Straub, who has recently accepted a teaching position at Our Lady of Mercy Regional School in Cutchogue.