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BOE on 2012-13 Budget: Expect Staff Cuts

Board President Liz Dion said that the district will need to reduce staff to stay under the two percent cap.

School board officials unveiled its preliminary 2012-13 budget at Tuesday's board meeting and revealed a grim reality: under the new two percent tax cap, the district will have no choice but to cut staff.

According to a 2012-13 budget presentation by Assistant Superintendent Robert Bartells, the new two percent tax cap allows the district to increase its budget by only $1.5 million over the current fiscal plan. The proposed budget for 2012-13, however, has an increase of $3.1 million — or about 3.2 percent. The majority of increases are in items the district has little control over like salaries, health insurance and retirement contributions, social security costs and transportation, he said.

The largest increase in the 2012-13 budget, Bartells said, is in salaries — up $1.85 million — and noted that salary increases alone exceeds the projected tax levy limit. He explained that the district would need a supermajority — a 60 percent affirmative vote — from residents to pass the proposed budget containing a 3.2 percent increase.

If the district wants to stay under the tax cap — and by all accounts it does — it would need to cut $1.4 million out of the 2012-13 budget, Bartells said. That fiscal plan would only need 50 percent of voters to approve it. Under the new tax cap law, if the budget is defeated twice, the district must adopt a contingency budget with a zero percent increase.

Finding $1.4 million to cut, however, is the problem, Bartells said. The district will use a portion of its reserve to deflect its employee retirement system contributions, and will roll all programs forward. "Every year we will have this issue of staying in the tax levy limit," he said.

Board President Liz Dion was clear that the district will not cut $1.4 million out of the budget by trimming small items like supplies. "We're not finding $1.4 million going line by line," she said. "We're looking at everyone and everything. Staffing cuts are coming."

Superintendent Dr. William Johnson said that with staff cuts comes the discussion of increasing class sizes throughout the district. He said he wants to retain the integrity of the school district, but look at the way services and programs are put together. "The only way to get there (under the two percent cap) is by reducing staff and personnel in the school district."

Dion noted that district officials will look at every class of employee. "Pain will be felt by all," she said.

When asked if the district could reopen the teachers contract and renegotiate its terms, Johnson said the only way that could happen is if the teacher's union agreed to reopen contract discussions.

School administrators in the district's seven schools submitted less than a zero percent increase in their individual 2012-13 budgets, and areas other than salaries that increased were in physical education (up nearly $30,000) and curriculum and instruction (up nearly $60,000).

District Athletic Director Carol Roseto said the $30,000 increase is due to the addition of a boys swim team at the high school. Chris Pelletieri, assistant superintendent of curriculum, said the $60,000 increase are costs associated with unfunded mandates, state-required new testing models and the Annual Professional Performance Review training, which is also state required.

The next 2012-13 budget meeting is on Feb. 7 at South Side High School.


Frank February 01, 2012 at 08:11 PM
This is sad. Increasing class sizes will diminish educational standards. In RVC, the schools are our best asset. Without it, property values would crash in our town. How can we stand for this? Better get everybody back to the table and re-negotiate benefits. In business, employees pay for their own retirement plans and have spartan health plans. no such thing as pensions or cadillac health plans anymore. Do not sacrifice teaching quality because employees refuse to accept the economic reality. We residents demand re-negotiations of benefits that are in line with the rest of America.
Long Island Patriot February 01, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Well said Frank. Additionally, perhaps our overpaid administrators should kick back 10% of their salaries as well. That would easily pay the salary for 2 or 3 teachers instead of laying them off.
Dave Kloven February 02, 2012 at 04:23 AM
How about hiring a private investigator to investigate those who attend rvc schools that don't live in rvc? And the parents that drop off their kids in hummers but the kids get free lunches? Penalize the violators. It will also thin out the classes.
Merrick7 February 02, 2012 at 01:34 PM
This is the backdoor way Cuomo's tax cap will in turn take down unfunded mandates uncontrolled. Over the next three years we will see major staff reductions and elimination of programs such as pre-K full and half-day kindergarden, JV athletics, middle school sports, after school programs, drama, music, art and increased class sizes. The cap forces this to happen leaving only salary increases, health insurance, pension contirbutions. This will create widespread community dissatisfaction not with the law, but with the unions, specifically teachers. This will force teachers to begin larger contributions or a complete over haul of laws like the Wicks Law, Taylor Law and Triborough Amendment, with a community of citizens fully behind the republican senate in this matter. I am not taking a side in this issue, but pointing put the political ramifications and purpose this tax cap serves, whether good or bad depends on the taxpayer's views.
Marc February 02, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Excellent point, Bryan. I am holding my breath....starting....now!
Interested Bystander February 02, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I think the cap will work exactly as intended - which is to say force a serious and sober look at every single employee of the school district. Great teachers should have nothing to worry about. But do we REALLY need (and can we afford) the unending stream of administrators, aides and others with titles I cannot even discern. It's not just their salaries - it's the health insurance, the dental insurance, the pension and all of the other misc expenses (FICA, medicare, worker's comp, disability). It all adds up and leads to annual increases in the school budget that are simply unsustainable. For example. how about we take a hard look at custodians - from my review of the budget - it's costing millions of dollars. Is this something that can be outsourced? We would pay a fee and NOT have to pay all of the other ancillary costs like pension contributions and healthcare. I will say it is refreshing to even discuss these issues without the threat of cuts to sports and other items which the administration has used for years as a threat to get the budget passed. With the tax cap, I think things really may start to be "all about the children" but also all about the taxpayer too! Horray for that focus! They are not mutually exclusive.
Rilog February 02, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I want to know how Assistant Supt. Bartels can dare say that the district has little control over salaries. They negotiate the salaries and needed to take a harder line when they last agreed. With the annual increases mandated, salaries needed to be negotiated down to get to zero salary growth. How this wasn't done is unfathomable! Private sector workers took cuts. Why not those paid by the public they serve?
Mother of Four February 02, 2012 at 09:44 PM
That is dead on, Interested Bystander! They threaten us with increasing cap sizes, cutting art and music programs and sports too....but there is so much fat in the employee section of the district! Lets trim that first before we take anything away from the kids. We have great teachers, yes, but do they all need 2-3 aides? How many secretaries does each principal, vice principal have? And those "floating subs"? The aides in SSMS and SSHS that literally WALK some students to class? God FORBID we even bring up salaries! There is SO MUCH waste--it will be a sin if ONE program is cut and we have not addressed any of these issues.
Marc February 02, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I have observed that these budgets seem to be rammed thru using scare tactics on the parents, threatening to cut services (such as Project Great) and various extracurricular activities. I hate say it, and please forgive me, it seem the mothers are most agressively targeted. That being said we are all here for some of the same reasons: GREAST schools and a wonderful living environment. But thingsseem to be degrading rapidly in the school system. You are right Mother of Four, there seems to be an excessive amoutn of staff on board. But dependingon circumstance, your views might be different. Special needs children are provided additional care and assistance throughout the school year. That may "cost" two aides. Would you begrudge these children the same opportunites others have? I doubt it. Please note, I am not disagreeing and you are, ostensibly preaching to the choir, but we need a well balanced aproach to solving these problems. Reactions brought on by fear by the administrtion must be curbed and a message sent we will VOTE on what we believe is necessary. Note, again...I ain't got the answers, here. However, I wish all the energy put into the fight for lights on a football field were channeled here as well. Someone here once said they were "embarassed" by our fields. I am embarassed the kids have classes in a trailer and the chem lab is outdated. Pick the battle! I'm just sayin'...
Interested Bystander February 02, 2012 at 10:44 PM
I think most parents and taxpayers are on the same page. We don't need a circular firing squad. But let's get serious - anyone with a brain who sees first hand what goes on in our schools KNOWS that there is plenty of fat to be cut. Mother of Four is spot on with the aides that walk the kids to their classes and so much more you would NOT BELIEVE. These are not "special needs" kids by any strecth of the imagination. The system gets "worked" because it benefits the parents, the school and the additional staff - only the taxpayer gets screwed. The squealing starts when accountability is demanded. The tax cap is the hammer to implement the accountability - because for far too long too many adults were willing to look the other way and kick the can down the road. The day of reckoning has arrived. And not a day too soon.
Interested Bystander February 02, 2012 at 10:52 PM
One other thought - Marc I could not agree more that the phycial plant of SSMS and SSHS is deplorable. So imagine a visitor from Mars, as we explain that we spend close to $100 MILLION dollars PER YEAR on 3500 students and we teach them in trailers and outdated labs and a gym from the 1950's. It is astounding! And as salaries, pension, step increases, healthcare, increased contributions to teacher guaranteed retirement accounts because the market crashed and they are protected from all market crashes (unlike the rest of us mere mortals) continues unabated - when oh when would we ever find $$$ to improve the schools even if there was no tax cap in place?
Marc February 03, 2012 at 12:04 AM
I'm glad you see my point about the facilities "IB" Also you're right...thew system does benefit the parents in many ways, but an evenhanded approach is needed to solve the problem that is not at the expense of the quality of the kid's education. Let's remember that's big part of RVC's attraction to good neighbors. Again, I have no answers, unfortunately, but something must be done and done without heavyhanded scare tactics. I'm sure many parents here have heard the "lecture" from principals of the evil and dire consequences of defeating the budget.
opinion-ated February 03, 2012 at 12:43 AM
I have a long list of teachers they can cut.
John February 03, 2012 at 01:13 AM
LOL 60% in this economy! Maybe Johnson and Bartells should donate there pay for the years of inaction in union backrubs. This is your shame Dr Johnson and we all have to live with it. I will do everything in my power to vote down any supermajority.What tricks will you try this year on voting day? Free giveaways, pony rides, or some mandatory thing to get the parents there. The old scare tactics are here again. WE WILL DEFEAT YOU THIS YEAR
opinion-ated February 04, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Kids taught in trailers, Not enough room for kids to eat in lunch room( if they even have room in their IB crammed schedule for a lunch period) , poor security....especially at HS level, with open campus where kids can come and go as they please no matter what grade level, Staff who spend more time on line during class or acting more like teenagers than modeling behavior appropriate for their roles as teachers. Thats what you get for your taxes.
Interested Bystander February 05, 2012 at 09:30 PM
John - no need to get excited. Staffing cuts are being discussed because BOE knows they have no chance of getting 60% of the vote. Just look at the last 3-4 years of School budget votes. No where near 60% approval and 2 or 3 years ago the vote to defeat was very close. Of course, had the budget been defeated we just go to austerity where we know that the only thing that gets cut is music, art and sports - anything to push the buttons of the parents. Now, however, with the cap - they have no choice but to cut jobs. As Al Capone said about robbing banks - THAT'S where the money is. You cut jobs, you cut salary, health benefits, dental insurance, pension, workers comp, FICA, medicare, disability insurance, dues etc. KEEP the GREAT teachers and torpedo the bodies. We ALL know every organization has bodies that can be cut. That's the reality or every organization. Not every single person who is on the school payroll is so vital that without their services our educational excellence will collapse. Sharpen the pencils, make the cuts, and those who remain get to buckle down with their nose to the grindstone. Win win for everybody with a lean and mean school district.
Frank February 07, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Quick question: Are there any triggers in the existing employment contracts that may allow the district to declare Force majeure and re-negoitate benefits? If the district does not have the money to pay the generous benefit packages due to legal mandate from the State (i.e. 2% cap), does that qualify as force majeure? Time to test how ironclad these contracts really are.


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