The Kings Park Board of Education started the discussion of larger class sizes and teacher cuts at Tuesday evening’s meeting as the district may be facing a $2.4 million budget gap.
A first look at the budget last month indicated about a $1.4 million shortfall to operate without any changes in programming or staffing from 2012.
Numbers released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office two weeks ago indicated that state aid would be about a million less than the district was anticipating. District superintendent, Susan Agruso said the numbers are not final and the district is hopeful that funding will be restored.
“There are efforts in the state now to restore some, if not all of that aid,” said Agruso.
The biggest increase in expenses the district is facing is a $1.7 million increase in retirement costs for teachers and administration, which Agruso said is the “big chunk of why we are in this budget crisis right now.” Agruso said that number increased from what was originally anticipated.
Step increases for teacher salaries also play a role. "This is the second biggest expense, which goes up $1.1 million just for step increases.”
The Kings Park Classroom Teacher's Association has been working under an expired contract since June of 2011. A public meeting will convene to an executive board meeting Wednesday evening regarding negotiations.
Agruso said if all aid is restored, the district would be looking at a $1.4 million budget gap.
The board, looking for preliminary information ahead of next week’s first budget workshop, requested information on staffing based on the two budget gap scenarios. According to Agruso, if the gap is about $1.4 million, the district is looking at eliminating seven teaching positions at the elementary level and three to four at the high school level.
“We are hoping to attribute some to retirement and some to declining enrollment,” said Agruso.
Under the larger budget gap, the district anticipates 14 teaching positions may need to be cut.
“We will see an increase in class sizes,” said Agruso. “We will be looking at specials such as art and music and the teaming structure we have in the middle school.” Though cuts to clubs and elective classes will be examined, most on the board believed the cuts would not net enough revenue to offset the gap.
The district was also looking at adding some things to the budget including a lead teacher for the elementary school reading program and further support for the Envisions math program.
“We have to look forward to the future too,” said trustee Tom Locascio. "I would like to make sure that the programs we have in place now are there in the future and not mortgage our future academic programs for a one shot deal now.”
The board asked administration officials to prepare information that would show what class sizes would look like if 14 teachers were cut.
“In the spirit of preparedness, at the current moment our hands are tied and we are hopeful it will loosen up a bit, but the time is going to go by quickly," said board president, Marie Goldstein. "I think in an effort to have successful budget workshops we have to direct the administration to bring us a budget that is going to reflect what we want to see. I don’t want to see class size rise, but I’m not sure we have a choice anymore.”
Final state aid numbers aren’t expected until late March or early April.
“Nothing is final, everything is in flux this time of year,” said Agruso.