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Mar 9, 2018 3:44 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

ESM Will Slash Teaching Staff, Potentially Close One School By 2021 To Bridge Funding Gap

Assistant Superintendent of Business, Timothy Laube. BRENDAN O'REILLY
Mar 13, 2018 4:47 PM

Eastport South Manor school administrators unveiled a list of recommended budget cuts at the district’s Board of Education meeting last week, a plan that eliminates dozens of staff positions to help close a $4.7 million budget shortfall for the 2018-19 school year—a gap that has widened by $500,000 from last month’s estimates.

One of the district’s four elementary schools also could be closed by 2021 to address the funding crisis.

The district’s assistant superintendent for business, Timothy Laube, delivered a primary list of proposals, called the “A list,” and a secondary list, called the “B list,” to hundreds of community members, teachers and the seven-member board at last week’s meeting. The board can follow all of the recommendations on the “A list” to close the gap completely, or swap some of the recommended “A list” cuts with suggestions from the “B list,” picking elements from each to reduce the potential impact on students for the 2018-19 school year.

The “A list” includes cutting the equivalent of nearly 74.7 full-time-equivalent staff positions—including 31.7 from teaching positions, 28 teacher aides, six clerical staff, six teachers’ assistants, and three administrators. Among administrators, two high school deans would be eliminated—one is retiring and will not be replaced—and the district’s director of technology, a post currently held by Daniel Espina, would be eliminated as well.

Currently, the district employs 281 teachers, 21 administrators, 122 aides and 83 teachers’ assistants.

Other recommended cuts on the “A list” include eliminating the high school fall play, saving the district $23,993; reducing athletic tournaments, supplies and equipment purchases by $54,000; and eliminating all high school assistant coaches, which would cut $82,000.

In addition, under the “A list,” all after-high school buses would be cut after 3:15 p.m., high school clubs would be reduced to half, and all after-school clubs at Dayton Avenue and Eastport elementary schools would be eliminated, saving the district a total of $133,329. The “A list” also includes eliminating 24-hour weekend security coverage at the high school while children are not in the building, saving the district $35,000, according to Mr. Laube.

That list would total $4,774,756 in cuts, closing the gap between the district’s expenditures and revenues.

According to Mr. Laube, the budget gap grew by another half-million since last month due to an unexpected $400,000 increase in special education costs, and a $75,000 increase in workers’ compensation rates.

The “B list,” which would trim $1,608,734 in overall spending, offers some alternatives to the “A list,” but Mr. Laube stressed that the total number of reductions must still equal the estimated $4.7 million shortfall: “At the end of the day we have to get to that number.”

Under the secondary list, the administration recommends cutting four elementary school music teachers, saving $480,000; eliminating all specialized high school music electives; eliminating both the fall play and spring musical; and cutting all high school junior varsity sports teams.

Other options under the “B list” include eliminating all field trips, a savings of $214,000, and, pending community approval, requiring all students who live within a 1.5-mile radius of their respective schools to walk to and from school, saving the district an estimated $152,000 in transportation costs.

“These are things you don’t have to do if you execute the ‘A list,’” said Mr. Laube, who joined the district last summer, replacing former Assistant Superintendent Richard Snyder.

“These recommendations are very, very, very hard to swallow,” School Board member Marie Brown said after the “A list” presentation. “I can’t believe how many faculty cuts are in here.”

“We went as deep as we thought responsible,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patrick Brimstein replied. “This is not pretty work.”

Karen Kesnig, the former School Board president who continues to serve as a board member, noted that although the administration did not publicly post Mr. Espina’s name on the list, he is the only person with that title, and it can be assumed that he will no longer have a job as of September.

“It’s unavoidable when there is only one person in the area,” Dr. Brimstein responded. “With every savings, there’s a cost.”

The district’s administration justified the proposal to cut nearly 32 teaching positions by pointing to a projected 18.1 percent drop in student enrollment since the 2010-11 school year, when enrollment stood at 3,888 students. Current enrollment is at 3,352 students, and Mr. Laube is projecting that figure will decline by another 168 students, or 5 percent, by the start of the 2018-19 school year.

While enrollment has steadily dropped over that span, the number of staffers has increased from 639 to 651, a 1.9 percent increase, according to Mr. Laube. Under the projected cuts, overall staff would drop to 577.

“Because of enrollment, we are able to consolidate,” Mr. Laube said.

Due to the decrease in student enrollment, particularly in kindergarten through second grade, the district also is considering the closure of one of its four elementary schools by 2021, according to Mr. Laube. He added that the closure would allow the district to rent out the building to generate revenue.

Which elementary school would close is undecided. “It’s driven by enrollment [and] which one is the most marketable to be rented,” Mr. Laube said.

The budget for 2018-19 is currently $98.2 million. Mr. Laube explained that based on the district’s projected tax levy increase, which currently stands at 1.76 percent for the upcoming school year, and state revenue totaling $37,329,250, nearly $657,000 more than last year, the budget needs to be closer to $93.4 million.

Since December, the district’s projected shortfall has risen from $3.2 million to $4.7 million, Mr. Laube noted.

He added that as of the 2018-19 school year the district will have more special education students entering the district than originally anticipated. In addition, Mr. Laube noted that the district’s contribution to the state teacher and employee retirement system is expected to increase by $349,317, to nearly $5.2 million next year.

The district’s retirement payouts are also expected to skyrocket next year, from $844,013 to $1,523,013, while its health insurance premiums are expected to jump from $8.5 million this year to $9.4 million next year, an increase of 9.9 percent.

During the nearly four-hour meeting last week, community members were invited to speak on the proposed cuts and voice their concerns.

Linda Wygonik, the newly elected president of the Eastport South Manor Teachers Association, was the first to address the School Board, criticizing the administration for lacking transparency. She argued that the dozens of teachers who could lose their jobs should have been notified prior to the public meeting, adding that two formal requests to see the list of proposed cuts were denied by the administration.

“We were told people would be given enough time,” Ms. Wygonik said. “Publicly announcing reductions prior to letting people know their positions are going to be cut … it is certainly far from our motto, ‘Be humble and kind.’”

Manorville resident Marion Diener agreed: “It’s disgraceful that the union was not brought in. Without these people we have nothing.”

Ms. Wygonik continued, urging the Board of Education to consider cutting more than the three administrators positions listed on the “A list,” saying, “The teachers, students and community are asked to shoulder a financial burden that we did not create.”

Joseph Mongiello, whose son is a junior at the combined high school, agreed that the first cuts should be made at the administration level.

“Cut all administrators’ … pay in half, cut [their] benefits, make them coach a team [until] they fix what they broke,” Mr. Mongiello wrote in an email. “[You] broke it, you pay. End of story.”

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An unsustainable mess, soon coming to a district near you.
By Lets go mets (342), Southampton on Mar 9, 18 4:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
Why in gods name do they need 21 administrators !!!!!!! That’s where the cuts should come first!!!!
By Chieftom019 (1), Eastport on Mar 9, 18 4:53 PM
need one to take attendance; one to patrol the bathrooms; one to monitor the parking lot for staff; one t o monitor the parking for students; one to monitor parking for visitors; hall monitors, cafetera monitors etc. etc.etc. and all are making 6 figures. little top heavy!!
By xtiego (686), bridgehampton on Mar 9, 18 5:45 PM
Cut from the top !! That was easy
By bigfresh (4153), north sea on Mar 9, 18 7:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
So we built a brand new elementary school - with a BOND - and now we are closing one?

By susgeek (41), Speonk on Mar 9, 18 7:22 PM
205 aids and assistants and 281 teachers? 21 administrators? One for every twenty teachers?
How many secretaries for each administrator, one, two?
4 elementary school music teachers cut, how many are there?
Hate to see people laid off, but it has to happen. Get rid of a few of the heavy admin people and keep more teachers.
By knitter (1623), Southampton on Mar 10, 18 12:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hampton Bays are you paying attention? Your bloated budget reminds me of the fat guy in the restaurant in the Monty Python movie
By CaptainSig (702), Dutch Harbor on Mar 10, 18 6:56 AM
Captain, the genius school board in Hampton Bays is suing the Town board for $10 million, that will solve the problem.
By dfree (692), hampton bays on Mar 11, 18 2:09 PM
There was no reason to ever build the Tuttle Ave School. Just look at the High School there is so much wasted space as it is poorly designed and constructed. Who cares how fancy a building is? What matters is the quality of teachers. We could afford great teachers if we didn't waste the money on these buildings.
Something else that needs to be looked into is the eligibility of students. People rent a property in the district to get their kids in then move to out of district but, continue to ...more
By lifesaver (116), speonk on Mar 10, 18 7:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
By Mouthampton (417), Southampton on Mar 10, 18 2:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
This model is not used in private enterprise as it would bankrupt every company in America. The accrual and cashing out of unused sick, personal and vacation days, are bankrupting municipalities, and is not done in private businesses. Obtaining double penisions and allowing those convicted not tot lose theres. Want t o close the budget gap. Start there. The pay should be enough, if not this is America, and change your job.....
By North Sea Citizen (520), North Sea on Mar 11, 18 7:01 AM
2 members liked this comment
":::the district’s health insurance payments are expected to significantly increase, from $8.5 million to $9.4 million, an increase of 9.9 percent."
Why is the health insurance cost going up?
So if the school district got out of the hospital subsidizing business, problem solved -- the unions could avoid all personnel cuts if they volunteer to shoulder some of their own health costs like every taxpayer in the district.
By dfree (692), hampton bays on Mar 12, 18 7:38 AM
So no other taxpayers in the district have employer-provided coverage?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5882), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 12, 18 7:55 AM
Full year salaries and benefits for 181 days and 6 hours of work per day. Tax payer burden after retirement. 4 elementary music teacher saving $480k. Plus over administration and waste. Eventually it has to catch up. The taxpayer can no longer afford gross incompetence in managing the district. Why does the taxpayer have to pay for retirement and benefits? Can't they figure it out themselves like most of America?
By The Real World (352), southampton on Mar 12, 18 7:46 AM
Like most of America, they get what they negotiated for. If you were unable to get a better deal maybe you should join a union instead of trying to bring others down to your level.

People insist they're getting ripped off by garbage collectors too, until they go on strike and the trash starts piling up.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5882), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 12, 18 7:51 AM
Where do you live? Garbage collection here is provided by private companies paid for by homeowners directly, not through property taxes. Taking trash to the dump yourself is also an option. I'm pretty sure the health benefits for local trash haulers are not equivalent to the health insurance benefits provided to school district employees.

Frankly, if every citizen had health care this would not be an issue. The money set aside for health care in school and local government would disappear ...more
By dfree (692), hampton bays on Mar 12, 18 8:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
It's a metaphor. Feel free to replace it with Police, or any other essential public service.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5882), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 12, 18 9:10 AM
Negatory Fore, Most of America has County districts, try pulling that off with the union. Also, negotiated by whom? When you allow ex teachers on school boards who's side are they on? The reality is, the Teachers Union is strong and fearful politicians play into their wants at the expense of the taxpayer. As for your garbage collectors and other union positions, small percentage of overall bill. 80% of your property taxes goes to the district. Also, they work all year. The gravy train has reached ...more
By The Real World (352), southampton on Mar 12, 18 8:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
This is all true, and if they collectively bargain themselves out of work down the line for their short-term benefit that is a real shame.
Mar 12, 18 9:08 AM appended by Fore1gnBornHBgrown
My point was the teachers are being rational economic actors, and yes, they deserve to bear the consequences of those actions.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5882), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 12, 18 9:08 AM
Do not cut counselors -in this day and age we'd be crazy to do so,

as other districts did, consider going up to ALBANY to ask for more aid-even a little will help

Pay to Play with sports as other districts did -VERY EFFECTIVE-so that kids sports dont suffer (reach out to Patchogue, Longwood and other districts for help

Drop the logo change-unnecessary expenditure at this time

By news for the community (1), southampton on Mar 13, 18 9:53 AM
How about synching up all the healthcare insurance contracts between teachers, janitors and adminstration staff then negotiating $800/month payments to a local hospital network instead of the current $1200/month. Then do the same with all local school employees in HB, Quogue and Westhampton. Then police, then Town admins. Then negotiate down to $500/month. Then offer that plan to local taxpayers at cost to have even more participants in the insurance pool. Then eliminate the insurance company ...more
By dfree (692), hampton bays on Mar 14, 18 7:15 PM