Residents, school officials and employees gathered at the East Quogue Elementary School Tuesday night to discuss the district’s revised budget during the final meeting before the polls open on Tuesday, June 18.
The Board of Education adopted at $22.4 million budget last week after trimming close to $600,000 in spending by eliminating one full-time special education teacher, four teacher assistant positions, three teacher aides, one custodian, a part-time speech teacher, a part-time psychologist and reducing the hours of the district’s technology specialist. Those cuts are in addition to the elimination of two teacher aides, a part-time librarian, a special education teacher and the reduction of a foreign language teacher to part-time—all of which were made in the board’s $23 million budget that voters rejected in May.
School Superintendent Les Black said the board was poised to cut an additional special education teacher, but it received notice last week that a special education student would be transferring to the school, resulting in additional revenue from tuition payments.
Registered voters can cast their ballots on the revised $22.4 million budget between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Central Avenue School this Tuesday.
The rejected spending plan required 60 percent approval because it exceeded the state-mandated 2-percent tax levy cap. The amended budget increases spending by a quarter of a percent, and raises the tax levy by about 2.4 percent, just under the cap, meaning it will need only 50 percent voter approval to pass on Tuesday.
School officials attributed the spending increase, and required cuts, to a steep spike in employee health care benefits and pensions, which they have no control over, they said. Officials also pointed out that about half the budget is allocated to pay the tuition of students in grades 7-12 who attend the Westhampton Beach School District. East Quogue will have about 23 more students entering Westhampton Beach schools next year than are graduating this month, resulting in about $450,000 more in tuition costs next school year.
If the budget does not pass on Tuesday, the district will be forced to adopt a budget with a zero-percent increase in the tax levy, which officials said would result in massive cuts and layoffs.
“This budget has to pass,” Board President Mario Cardaci said. “No matter what, this budget has to pass.”