Since the Hendrick Hudson Board it would be considering cutting staff in order to stay under the state mandated two percent tax cap several months ago, the of the teachers and other staff slated for termination.
Last night, the Board of Education approved a which includes staff cuts.
“This has been difficult for all of us,” said Board of Education president Marion Walsh in regards to the proposal.
Under the proposal, what the district has titled “Level 1” cuts would eliminate 11 teachers, 12 teacher aides and 3 custodians. “Level 2” cuts would eliminate six teachers and one administrator. The proposed cuts would save the district about $3 million.
Other reductions in next year’s proposed budget include: Extra-curricular activities at the high school and middle school, Public relations stipends, Special education tuition, Professional development, CTP4 Testing (eliminate grades 3,4,7 and 8), Summer Help, HS Lunch Supervisors.
At last night’s meeting Superintendent Daniel McCann said that if the teacher’s union, HHEA, would agree to zero percent raises, it would save the district close to $900,000. The District and HHEA have been at an impasse for several months but are continuing a year-and-a-half long negotiation.
McCann said that if the union agrees to zero percent then “we could certainly restore Level 2 and potentially part of Level 1.” Saving those jobs would also mean saving some school electives and program offerings.
The board also noted that health care, pension and retiree costs are a significant burden to the district and cannot be controlled by board votes. The board briefly noted that Gov. Cuomo’s tax cap in conjunction with these sky rocketing costs made their job very difficult to do.
“This is the most restrictive cap in the United States,” McCann said. “Someone in Albany wants to be president.”
Members of the public who spoke at the podium included a young teacher, a local real estate agent close to retirement and a few parents. They were frank but respectful with the board and expressed frustration with the union negotiations.
“The elementary schools are the foundation of education in this district,” said Debra Santucci, concerned about teacher cuts that would affect the younger students and increase class sizes. “I ask for you to have difficult negotiations with the teachers and find a better way to settle this…Maybe there are non-monetary incentives the teachers would be willing to take,” Santucci said.
“And I appeal to the teachers (to understand) that a lot of people don’t have jobs and it would not kill to take a zero, I hate to say that,” Santucci said, explaining that she doesn’t want teachers to have to take less, but thinks it is necessary. She added that the economy is not in a recession but a “depression,” and both sides of the bargaining table need to consider that.
Several other speakers agreed with Santucci that teachers should take a zero percent raise in their contract because it will save jobs and programs.
“I don’t think we are being unreasonable asking for zeroes,” said Board Member Mary-Pat Briggi. “The economic reality is it is not doable. It is a significant amount of money and a small trade off when you look at what the alternative is…for the kids and saving colleagues jobs.”
Lauren Attinelly, a mother of two Hen Hud students and president of the Buchanan-Verplanck PTA, explained that she is very happy with the school district and asked that all involved in the union negotiations and budget discussions maintain a “can do” attitude and an optimistic outlook for the sake of the children. She also said that teachers should accept a zero. Attinelly said that she works in the private sector and she has had zero percent raises for the last three years. It is something families have to make work, she said.
Resident John Mattis questioned the board about a plan he and his committee ( an ad hoc group of residents concerned over district finances) had presented to them that would save $700,000, he said. McCann explained his analysis of Mattis’ document and said that some items are tied up with union negotiations and others did not represent the kinds of savings that Mattis believed they would.
Most of the board members explained that they are troubled by a proposed budget that calls for staff cuts, and would like to reach an agreement with HHEA that will save jobs.
“It is hard to sleep at night sometimes when you think about it because you look that the teachers and they are so good,” said Board Member Charles Thompson.
After the discussion, all board members in attendance voted in favor of the proposed $70 million budget except Carson Jacobs, who had mentioned adopting a budget that would exceed the two percent cap earlier in the meeting. Thompson and Walsh both explained they would not want to exceed the cap because they did not believe they could get a 60 percent public vote in favor of doing that, which would be required.
President Walsh ended the discussion explaining that, “Teachers are brave. We need to have bravery, resiliency and optimism.”
The community can vote on the budget on May 15 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Frank G. Lindsey School on Trolley Road in Montrose.
Read more on the budget in our article,
Should Hen Hud teachers take a zero percent raise in their contract? Tell us in the comments and take our poll.