Westhampton Beach School Budget Eliminates 10 Teaching Positions, Cuts Funding For Programs

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The Westhampton Beach Board of Education unanimously approved a $53.5 million budget for the 2013-14 school year on Monday, a plan that eliminates 10 teaching positions and cuts funding for educational programming and some sports teams, but also stays below the state-mandated tax cap.

The proposed budget represents a $1.7 million increase in spending, or 3.36 percent, over this year’s $51.8 million spending plan. Under the budget, which must be approved by taxpayers on May 21, the district is anticipating a $27.3 million tax levy, an increase of 3.6 percent from the current year’s $26.3 million levy.

Schools Superintendent Michael Radday explained that the district was forced to make cuts across the board after failing to reach an agreement with the Westhampton Beach Teachers Association, which has refused to accept a pay freeze next year. Board of Education members had threatened to cut teaching positions if the union refused to accept the freeze; all other district employees have agreed to the pay freeze.

As a result, the district will be cutting five instructional coordinator positions, as well as three full-time and two part-time teaching positions. The board will phase out the high school’s American Sign Language and Latin programs, laying off two full-time teachers in the process, and will eliminate one high school art teacher position. They are also cutting a part-time special education teacher and a part-time business teacher.

The board is also cutting funding for the varsity bowling team and the JV boys volleyball team and JV cheerleading squad. Funding for the late bus at the high school is also being eliminated.

Mr. Radday said he would not estimate how much the district tax rate will go up next year, explaining that fluctuating property assessments have created confusion in recent years. For example, last year the district projected that the tax rate would increase by 3 percent, or 16 cents, from $5.53 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $5.69. But when the numbers were finalized in the fall, the rate actually went up by 6 percent, or 33 cents, to $5.86 per $1,000, according to Mr. Radday.

“Those that have been part of this process all along see the time the board has put into this and knows that, certainly, tough decisions had to be made,” Mr. Radday said during Monday’s meeting. “The reality is we are faced with the convergence of the governor’s tax levy legislation and increasing costs beyond the district’s control. The only way to bring a budget in under the limit is to make some cuts.”

The district will present its proposed budget to the community during a meeting on Monday, May 13, at 7 p.m., in the high school auditorium.

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