Before an audience of about 60 people at East Hills Middle School, Superintendent Joseph J. Roy called it a "reasonable budget" that avoids infringing on the "classroom circle." But Directors Rosario S. Amato, Irene Follweiler, Loretta M. Leeson and Benjamin M. Tenaglia III made clear, in an informal polling, that they would prefer to see no tax hike at all. Leeson was upset at just receiving the budget, but nevertheless went through a line-by-line review, looking for areas to cut. When warned that additional cuts could interfere in the classroom, she dismissed it as a "scare tactic."
The preliminary budget produced on April 26 is the result of six previous workshops. Final budget adoption is scheduled for June 13. Dr. Roy explained he would like to adopt a budget as soon as possible so that furloughed employees would have as much notice as possible.
Directors were particularly bothered by the elimination of mid-day bus runs for kindergarten students. "We can not take kids to school and then not take them home when they're four or five years old," complained Michael E. Faccinetto. "I don't know why the administration would put down a one-way ticket to school. Are they trying to insult us? demanded Rosario S. Amato, who claimed these children were being given a "one-way ticket to Hell." Eugene C. McKeon likened it to the Bataan death march.
Restoring this service would cost the school district $114,500, which translates to an additional 0.092% tax hike.
A majority of school directors propose restoring "high school resource officers," i.e. a police presence. But William J. Burkhardt complained that police are only present at schools 60% of the time, and were absent during a recent assault at Liberty High School. He prefers a 100% police presence.
They also oppose personnel cuts for high school guidance counselors and for seniors who arrive or leave early.
But despite pleas from students, co-ed soccer at the middle schools is still on the chopping block. Attorney Janet Jackson argued that students involved in sports tend to stay out of juvenile court, but not one director seemed interested in restoring that $24,000 in funding, which would increase the tax bite by 0.19%.
During her presentation, Business Manager Stacy Gober told directors that $1 million was being taken from $2.6 million in the budgetary reserve. Irene Follweiler questioned whether this would affect the school district's credit rating, and this concern was echoed by Leeson, Amato and Tenaglia.
Directors and administrators will tangle with the budget again on May 9, 6 PM, at East Hills Middle School.