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After Budget Defeat, Comsewogue Mulls Next Steps

Board of Education will meet to discuss what budget to adopt and put up for a vote on June 19.

It's back to the drawing board for Comsewogue School District as administrators must now come up with an alternative budget plan to present for a vote after with a needed supermajority of 60 percent of the vote.

The budget lost by just over 1 percent getting support from 58.7 percent of voters, only 33 individual votes shy of passing.

According to Assistant Superintendent for Business, Susan Casali, the next budget vote will be June 19. Casali said that the Board of Education will decide which budget to present.

The board has already stated at public meetings they will present the property tax cap level budget of 2.6 percent with $2.9 million needed to be eliminated from the total budget.

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Board Member Lance Brown said that the board and administrators still have work to do to decide what to do next.

"The board will be meeting with the administration over the next few days to determine the exact makeup of the 2.6 budget," he said.

If that budget is ultimately defeated and the district is forced to implement a zero percent increase in the tax levy, then it would need to cut $4.4 million from the existing budget.

"And that would be quite devastating in terms of the many additional cuts that would need to be made and additional teachers that would need to be let go," he said.

In a previous presentation, Superintendent Joseph Rella proposed what cuts would need to be made under the 2.6 percent. Highlights include:

Reconfiguring the elementary school buildings into the Princeton Plan:

  • The Princeton Plan calls for going from four grade K - 5 buildings to two grade K-2 buildings ( and ) and two grade 3-5 buildings ( and )
  • Move all grade K-2 students from Boyle to Norwood and all grade 3-5 students from Norwood to Boyle
  • Similarly, district will move all K-2 students from Terryville to Clinton and all grade 3-5 students from Clinton to Terryville

  • Classes at 30 students

  • Cancel all High School courses under 20 (22 sections)
  • AP Physics, Government & Politics, Economics, Biology, Spanish, Italian
  • Art, Lote, English, Business

Additional cuts include:

  • Psychologist/Special Ed/Counselors
  • Administrative/Civil Service
  • Activity Buses (Late Runs)
  • Review and extra help sessions
  • Clubs
  • Concerts
  • Assistant Coaches/Athletics/Transport
  • Security reduced
  • In total the plan originally called for 35 positions to be cut

Princeton Plan Configuration

School

 Grade

Sections

New

 

 

 Scheduled

Class Size

Norwood

K

5

27.4

Norwood

1

5

27.4

Norwood

2

5

25.0

Boyle

3

5

23.6

Boyle

4

5

27.8

Boyle

5

5

24.4

School

 Grade

Sections

New

 

 Scheduled

Class Size

Clinton

K

6

26.2

Clinton

1

6

26.2

Clinton

2

6

23.7

Terryville

3

5

26.4

Terryville

4

7

25.1

Terryville

5

6

25.7

* Information from January and February 2012 Comsewogue School District Superintendent Budget presentations.

Jeff May 16, 2012 at 09:20 PM
This is so sad. My poor daughter will miss out on AP classes. The education of children is just as important or more important that the sports programs. Why target the high achievers and not make any specific sports cuts??? I am so disenchanted with the families in the district. I have to applaud Dr. Rella. He does a great job and has sacrificed so much. Unfortunately people in the community don't see all the hard work.
Sid May 16, 2012 at 09:49 PM
It is always about the students but sometimes it has to be about the homeowners and tax payers footing thje bill. The first set of postcards sent around overwhelmingy suggested to the BOE that this budget would not pass but they listened to 30 parents and put it to vote anyway. Its now time to go to the BOE budget process and ask if AP classes are more important other programs.
Jeff May 16, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Sid - where did you get your info? That is not entirely true. In fact by virtue of the fact it narrowly failed does not support your argument. Maybe if people learned that it comes from the top (local and state government) then they may make a better educated decision. Did you know that the NYS testing mandate - which funding falls directly on the homeowners property taxes - is written so the school district must not only complete the mandate but do so through a company backed by NYS whose owned partially by a direct relation to the most recently fallen Libyan leader? Like I said before, instead of looking at blaming the schools and their administration entirely, look at the state where the make the rules that they don't have to play by...
Rob May 16, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I won't vote yes for any school budget that doesn't address the real cost drivers for taxpayers, Pensions, Benefits, Salaries. Former Superintendent Saffer makes 460k in retirement. Want to fund sports? Ask her for a donation...
Mrs E May 17, 2012 at 01:37 AM
It's really unfortunate that the taxpayers don't see that the small increase would minimally effect monthly/annual taxes & the repercussions of not passing it is detrimental to the community, children & economy. Very disappointed in the small minded people of PJS. Too bad.
Rob May 17, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Lots of "little" increases over 2 decades adds up to being one of the highest taxed counties in the country...sorry Mrs. E, your propaganda falls short. The TU can come to the table any time and save all those jobs by agreeing to a salary freeze and larger share of their benefits.
Pat Monem May 17, 2012 at 01:58 AM
First off let me say I think Dr. Rella does a fantastic job and NO ONE can say he does not keep the District informed with meetings and his weekly Sunday phone messages. Second, I do agree that the postcards that were sent out were a brilliant idea to get a better idea of what the district wanted. Not everyone can get to meetings to voice their opinion. Lastly, the teachers or minimally 90% of them are fantastic and make Comsewogue such a great school district. They are more than teachers to so many students, they help mold the children into the young adults they are when they graduate. I've seen it twice personally. Both of my graduated children still stay in touch with teachers at the HS. I have a third child ( 2nd grade) to put through the school system. While I don't want cuts I can't afford higher taxes than the state mandate. On a side note I think the little plastic road signs "Vote yes" are cheesy and condescending . That would NOT sway me to change my mind. Save the money and put it to better use elsewhere. "It's about the kids" - makes me think why didn't other school boards think that way when they gave Brande and Saffer HUGE pension and benefits as Superintendents? Why wasn't it about the kids then??? Cut 2.9 million? Half of that figure is their pensions put together!!! I have faith that Dr. Brande will provide us with the best possible budget in June to vote on and that HE IS ALL ABOUT THE KIDS -
Sid May 17, 2012 at 10:39 AM
Jeff I am not looking to blame anyone. That was not my point. Yes it failed by under 2% but bottom line enrollment is down and the budget wants taxes are up. If there programs outside the basic curriculum that can no longer be funded within the state guidelines, then maybe those that use the programs should be supported directly by those that use them. I agree to lose AP classes, heaven forbid a sports program, or any other program is a setback but it is just financial unsustainable. My point is, go back to the budget process and determine the priorities based on avaiable funding.
Living in Brookhaven May 17, 2012 at 11:37 AM
I voted no because $300 a year is more than I can take. The reason why it narrowly failed is simple - more people have kids and don't want to see them suffer. It does not have to hurt the kids as much as they make it. School districts design these budgets to strong arm the community. Then they bill it all toward the student "Its about the kids". My foot. The proposed budget was voted down because it was the wrong thing to do in the current economic climate.
craig May 17, 2012 at 12:54 PM
welcome to (CROOK HAVEN) if the town taxes were not sky high. the increse would have passed
Fred May 17, 2012 at 01:49 PM
when a former super makes 460K in pensions and the district wants to cut all sports/programs, or else pass our budget because its "for the kids" is beyond hypocritical. I agree Dr Rella does a good job considering, but when does it end. This district had over a 7% increase in the the midst of a recession, and to come back to the community with a cap busting budget is terrrible.
Ron May 17, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Everyone keeps commenting on the fact that former Superintendents are making huge pensions. Well I have some news for you, that is not going to change anytime soon. Those same people will continue to earn their pensions no matter how you vote. So voting no on the budget because you are unhappy they are drawing big pensions is idiotic, you are not going to change their pensions by voting down the budget, you are just taking funds away from the current students.
Fred May 17, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Ron, I agree that current students are victims in all of this, but so are the taxpayers. After all the problems not only in Comsewogue, but all over Long Island, there is still no accountability. There is something fundamentally wrong, when a public school system either taxes its residents out of town, or cuts the kids education, while maintaining unsustainable pensions/benefits for its admin and union employee's. I know the district is contractual obligated for these pensions, but why is there no obligation to the students AND the taxpayers
Ron May 17, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Fred what a lot of people fail to realize is that when we say they are cutting "education" that means teachers. Many teachers and aides and support staff will lose their jobs because the budget was voted down. The students are affected because now they will have to reconfigure the schools and it will involve increased class size which in turn affects the students ability to learn. Each remaining teacher will have more kids in their class, which increases their workload. These are the same teachers last year that gave back a contractual increase in pay to save teacher layoffs so students were not subjected to these sacrifices. When has ANYONE ever given back a raise in pay for the better good of the community? NEVER. These teachers did it last year and now the community is showing its true colors. Sad
VP May 17, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Statistic--- The 2008 bailout of Wall Street cost 200 billion more than the Federal Government spent on all Public Education in 2007. Where is the anger? Why aren't we supporting education which goes to the heart of prosperity in this country?
Fred May 17, 2012 at 04:56 PM
we do have some great teachers. The give backs were nice, but I have been "giving back" a huge chunk of my salary in the form of taxes for years. I wish we can hire more teachers and reduce class size etc, but its just not economically possible at this time. What bothers me the most is the blame game. Our poll's in Albany blame the district, the district blames Albany, teachers and admin point fingers at each other, where does the buck actually stop. Will it ever stop?
Ron May 17, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Your right Fred the pointing of fingers is pointless and accomplishes nothing. The education system is flawed and there is no quick solution.
Red May 17, 2012 at 05:19 PM
You want my vote above the tax cap? Give me specifics on how teacher's are sacrificing "for the kids?" How administrators are sacrificing "for the kids"? How civil service is sacrificing "for the kids"? They are? Then I'll sacrifice too and vote YES. Need I say more?
Living in Brookhaven May 17, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Ron, How about the school districts that year after year took advantage of the taxpayers and ultimately the students? There is nothing, NOTHING that says they have to immediately move to punish the students. That notion is idiotic. These districts are just like individuals, when times get hard they need to think of where to get money. Sell property, offer property for rentals for events, anything to make money back. This economy is rough, and for them to expect an increase like this after what they did last year is in poor taste and shows just how they feel about the community they WORK FOR.
Ron May 18, 2012 at 01:39 AM
LIB, How did the school districts "take advantage of the tax payers and the students?" you make is sound like the teachers and principals have secret meetings after school on how to get more money from the tax payers. Well the reality of it is they do have meetings after school, but they are about how to better educate the students and how to get more creative with their lesson plans. And then when the teachers get home, the work continues on the next days lessons and grading tests and reading books for the next days reading lesson. All of this is in an effort to educate YOUR children, so don't talk about how THEY feel about the community. The school district is a lot like individuals, as you put it, when you don't have money to spend you have to make cuts to your spending, and that is what will be done.
Living in Brookhaven May 18, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Ron, They do have meetings on how to get money, its called a school budget meeting. They might as well be secret because of the times they have them. You wanted to know how a school district took advantage of us? How about the 460k pension that everyone is talking about? No big deal right? I date a teacher, my sister in law is a teacher, and I was trained as a teacher. Do you what the biggest unspoken rule for a teacher is? Dont live in the community you work in. Why do you think that is? Now, please don't get me wrong I keep saying its not the teachers and the students fault. This system is a mess and the reform has to start somewhere. Present a budget that makes sense and is more in line with the economy and Ill vote yes. Until then, they need to keep working on it for the good of the community.
Rboys May 19, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Red - Do you not remember when the teachers last year gave up their salary increase which was contractual for the kids of the Comsewogue district when a majority of them DO NOT HAVE KIDS in OUR schools. It is shameful that people turned their backs on them now. Most people have I phones - kids have ipods but we won't give an extra 20 dollars a month to their education. AND if you think you saved money on your taxes think of how the value of your house just dropped!
GRennard May 20, 2012 at 12:15 AM
The Princeton Plan, or reconfiguring of the schools will be happening even if the 2.6 budget is voted down. The 0% budget will be devastating for our schools and our community. I am asking all who were planning to vote no because of the Princeton Plan to please reconsider.
Not Happy May 20, 2012 at 01:43 AM
I voted in favor of the 4.5% increase but will not vote in favor of the 2.6 increase because the Princeton Place is in place. There are many other areas where cuts can be made within the district.
JR May 20, 2012 at 02:02 AM
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the real solution to all of this. I'm speaking of the lottery. Money from the lottery was supposed to help fund education when it was instituted those many years ago. And do they really have to give out prizes worth millions and millions of dollars? Put a cap on the prizes and use the rest for education. People will still play and the state will still rake in the money.
Fred May 20, 2012 at 02:50 AM
while a good school is a asset to a community, taxes also have a profoundly negative impact. When you go to sell your home, the tax levy will directly effect what you get offered. To propose a cap busting budget a year after a 7+% is turning your back on the community that pay for said teachers
Rob May 20, 2012 at 01:44 PM
The board needs to pass a non binding resolution demanding mandate relief. The board then needs to play hard ball on the upcoming contract. I am sick and tired of hearing about the giveback from 2011. Need I remind everyone that same year the taxpayer was forced to bailout out the underfunded pension in the form of a lump sum payment. That is why our taxes went up 7% despite the giveback. In the end the TU got a lot more value out of the pension bailout then the measly amount they gave back. Couple all that with huge step increases over the past decade and the teachers union really needs to step up and do it 'for the kids'. The taxpayers are tapped out
Jim May 20, 2012 at 03:27 PM
The fact that the vote received a 58% passage rate is a joke. I love how teachers get students that are 18 years old to vote yes. Kids that don't know what a tax is. Voting should be done by the property owners only! We pay the bills. Second. every year of $300 increases add up. Do the math! And you can't say anymore that it helps our property values because we've all seen them tank drastically. Third: You can't say that the education is great because we've seen it's not. We spend more per child than anywhere else in the country and the results are mediocre at best. Also, how many asst superintedants do we need. Yes, it's all about the kids!
artist1958 May 21, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Sad times..No matter what you believe the kids suffer and that is a shame.
Disgusted! May 23, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Just curious. I'm from a different district but I have a question. Did I read somewhere that it was Comsewogue where the teachers actually gave back money. Something like 5% or 5K. Was that you guys? Just curious because I now realize that your budget failed, so I'm confused. Thanks

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