Tag Archive | "cuts"

Middle School Counselor’s Job Safe for This Year

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With New York Governor David Paterson poised to make a total of $3.2 billion in state funding cuts, the Sag Harbor School District will likely lose $148,000 in state aid next year. And as a result of this reduced subsidy, the school will probably need to trim expenses for this school year.
The Pierson community recently swirled with information that one such cut was the middle school guidance counselor. At a board of education meeting on Monday, over a dozen teachers and parents lobbied the board to retain not only the position but the current counselor, Carl Brandl. School superintendent Dr. John Gratto assured the public that Brandl’s position is safe for the rest of this year but said he couldn’t make the same guarantee for 2010-2011.
Based on public comments, Brandl has several supporters in the community. One mother, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she works in the kitchen staff and witnesses first hand how Brandl relates to the students.
“Carl is a man who knows every single one of those kids. He is vital [to the school],” she remarked.
Other parents asserted that a middle school guidance counselor provides necessary emotional support to help students through the difficult years of early adolescence. Brandl advises close to 220 students and has been with the district since 2004.
According to Pierson guidance counselor Eileen Kochanasz, in a meeting last week Dr. Gratto said Brandl’s position could be cut.
“Staffing cuts needed to be examined. We were looking at staffing cuts as one idea. But it has been rejected. Now, we don’t feel that is necessary,” stated Dr. Gratto.
He later added that the school didn’t believe it would be fair to cut staff or programs in the middle of the year. Instead, Dr. Gratto outlined a four-part plan to maintain existing staff despite decreases in state aid.
The first measure mirrors a similar spending freeze enacted last year. The district’s business manager Len Bernard will analyze the remaining budget dollars with a fine tooth comb and is expected to suggest $100,000 worth of cuts. Dr. Gratto added that the cuts will be vetted with administrators. Secondly, the school will disable approximately five to six overhead lights near classroom windows. This idea is expected to save around $10,000. Student Jessica Warne supported this idea, but teacher Nell Lowell suggested the school look into installing an additional light switch for fixtures by the window. On snowy or rainy days, said Lowell, the classroom would need the extra light.
The district is also looking to reduce the heat from 72 to 69 degrees, which would slash expenses by $10,000. Dr. Gratto added that by the end of the school year, Pierson will save around $38,000 by sharing transportation costs with the Springs School District over the summer.
Teacher Jim Kinnier asked if the district will commit to employing Brandl next school year. At the meeting, Dr. Gratto said at this point the board couldn’t make such a statement.
“There is a lot we don’t know about next year. But my preference would be to keep him,” added Dr. Gratto.


During the meeting, 725 Green chairwoman Gigi Morris urged the board to hold off on the school’s proposed parking project. Morris noted that the local community is financially struggling. She added that several residential neighbors of the school would prefer to have parking on the street instead of having taxpayers bear the cost of the $1 million parking plan. She said an ad hoc group representing several members of the community, from the police to the village, would soon be forming to comprehensively analyze the parking and traffic around the school.
If the bond proposition is passed, Dr. Gratto said the parking project can be deferred to the end of the bond’s design phase. The group would have around six months to compile and present alternatives to the parking plan.
Parent Ken Dorph spoke out against the project, saying by providing free parking the school had “fallen victim to one of the worst mistakes in traffic management.” He added that as a parent he always finds parking within a block of the school.
“To spend a million dollars on parking [in this economy] is wrong and I cannot support this,” said Dorph.

Taking a Scalpel to Proposed Budget in Sag Harbor School District

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Although the phone lines in the Sag Harbor School District have been working lately, the district has experienced major problems with them resulting in an irritating busy signal greeting callers over the past few weeks.
Callers trying to reach administrators at the school would hear busy signals, but school employees were able to call out. To rectify the situation, the district has announced it will be changing phone companies — from Metel to Optimum Lightpath — which will save the district approximately $30,000. Some administrators are suggesting some other creative ways to tighten the school’s spending belt, in an effort to save money in the district and decrease the chances of the current economic struggle hitting and impacting the education of the students. Total cost savings in the district so far this year are just over $300,000.
At a board of education meeting last month, superintendent Dr. John Gratto announced that there would be a spending freeze in office supplies, professional development and conferences for some departments, not to exceed $100,000. The purpose of the freeze, Gratto said, is to protect educational programs in the event of a mid-year state aid reduction and to possibly minimize a tax increase in next year’s budget. Gratto also said that programs and services directly impacting students would remain fully funded.
The district’s business manager, Len Bernard, also said on Monday that the district was able to cut costs on certain supplies that he, Gratto and some administrators felt were unnecessary, saving $100,000 out of the 2008-2009 school’s budget. He said the district would not have to delete any item in its entirety, but instead can reduce the amount of certain supplies and shave $1,000 to $3,000 off particular items.
Gratto also said that the district was able to reduce a data analyst position from two days a week to one day per week. Bernard said that the analyst was needed two days a week last year, but this year it would only be data entry and not require as much time as it had in the past.
“We went through the budget, not with a sledge hammer, but with a scalpel; we went through all the items with the administrators to make sure they felt comfortable,” Bernard said on Monday.
But there have been additional efforts to cut costs and save money for the district.
Gratto said in his message last month to parents, teachers, administrators and community members that the district has saved money by choosing not to re-hire an accounts payable/accounts receivable position that was left open at the beginning of the summer. By doing this, Gratto said they have saved $40,000. Also in his letter, which is posted on the school’s website, Gratto said that a position has been eliminated from the school’s lunch program, which also saved the district $49,000 and the building and grounds position that was given to the new athletic director was also a cost savings of $40,000 for the district.
Additionally, after a review in September, Gratto said the district was able to cut $51,000 by reducing services offered by BOCES, which was included in the 2008-2009 budget.
Bernard said that he went through the BOCES budget line by line to see in what areas the district could cut services offered through the program — and where instead of hiring costly consultants the district could choose to use in-house staff.
The school district is also working on the South Shore Purchasing Consortium, which was an idea pushed by the Sag Harbor District and Gratto, to combine the purchasing of nine area schools to attempt to get better pricing for things like paper and heating oil.