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Farmingdale School Budget: Maintaining Programs Despite Deep Aid Cuts

A look at how the Farmingdale School District trimmed programs to sustain the aid cuts and rising costs for the 2011-12 school year.

The Farmingdale School District will put to vote a $146,957,711 budget May 17, which calls for a and represents a decrease in spending from last year.

The tax levy in the original proposal – 2.96 percent – was lowered after the district found out it will receive a as a result of the state legislature putting some education aid back into Governor Cuomo's budget.

“After conversations with the Board of Education and understanding the fiscal climate that we are in, the recommendation was to use the additional state aid we have received from the legislature in order to off-set taxes,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Paul Defendini.

The district is receiving $2 million less state aid than last year, while state-mandated costs like retirement system contributions and health insurance have increased 35 percent and 15 percent respectively. To help off-set these revenue losses and rising expenses, the budget uses $1,803,251 from the reserves and $5,196,749 from the fund balance - the money left over from last year- a total of $7 million.

The $1.07 million of cuts this year include reducing district staff, combining seventh- and eighth- grade sports teams and eliminating some after-school clubs, while maintaining an average district-wide class size of 21.71, keeping career electives available and recognizing the value of extracurriculars, administrators said.

"Our goal is always to provide a comprehensive, well-rounded education with many opportunities for our students," said Superintendent John Lorentz.

Here is a breakdown of how the overall program was affected at every grade level:

Class Sizes, Section Offering Adjustments

The district-wide average class size will remain at 21.8. While class sizes will be below or near there for the lower elementary grades, higher grade levels will have some classes above the average. Also at the higher levels, classes with enrollments historically lower than that average will be filled, which means there will be less sections offered scheduling-wise.

  • Elementary Schools: Fourth and fifth grade classes may reach sizes of 24-25, while lower grades will remain at 21-22. This reduces the total number of homerooms, which in turn reduces the art, music and physical education classes needed to accommodate each class.
  • Howitt Middle School: Currently there are 10 two-person teams with 23/24 students. Next year, there will be nine two-person teams with 25/26 students.
  • Farmingdale High School: An analysis of class sizes revealed that in the areas of Business, LOTE (Languages Other Than English), ESL and Health,  enrollments were historically below 21 students, with business classes averaging 14-15 students and ESL six- 12 students. Adjustments will be made to fill these classes to the district average, which will limit the number of opportunities from a scheduling perspective. However no language and elective offerings were cut as options for students.

After-School Clubs

The district will eliminate clubs at each grade level. "Decisions will be made in September based on student interest," Defendini said. Cuts were made in terms of "units" - each club is made up of a different number of units, with each unit equating to 15 hours.

  • Elementary Schools: Twelve total units were cut, three units at each elementary school.
  • Howitt Middle School: Six units were cut.
  • Farmingdale High School: Six units were cut.

Central Office

There was a part-time clerical position available in Assistant Superintendent Barbara Horsley's office that will remain empty next year. There are two retirements in the administration and only one of them will be replaced. This will require a redistribution of responsibilities in central office.

Elementary School Psychologist

Last year an elementary school psychologist retired and the district has decided to keep that position vacant.

Recorder Program

The district analyzed the music program with the goal of maintaining the strength of program, without diminishing opportunity. At the fourth and fifth grade level, the district decided that are opportunities in band, orchestra and chorus, so the recorder option was eliminated.

Custodial Staff 

The district will eliminate 3.5 custodial staff members at the elementary schools (one from Albany Ave., one from Woodward Parkway, one from Saltzman, .5 from Northside) and one at Farmingdale High School. However, staff reductions like this are impacted by retirements and other factors, so these numbers are still evolving at this point, Defendini said.

Supervision Changes for In-School Suspension Program

The district will provide supervision to this disciplinary program at the middle and high school level differently. There will no longer be 1.8 dedicated staff members to ISS. Other staff members will be assigned to it on their duty period.

Science Lab Equipment

The equipment currently is the responsibility of .5 of a support staff member at Howitt Middle School. The responsibilities will deferred to other support staff, and some may shift to the science teachers and the science director.

Middle School Sports Teams Combined

Currently many of the sports teams at the middle school level have two separate teams for seventh grade and eight grade. Next year the district has elected to combine those teams. "This may limit opportunities to participate based on supervision, but opportunities would not cut student participation in half," said Superintendent Lorentz. The administrators said this is a reduction happening across Nassau County, so a likely result is modified game rules, like lengthening the games longer so more students can play.

Hallway Supervision Shifts

The district will reduce hallway supervision to require less staff monitors. Teachers and other staff members will be assigned this responsibility.

After- School Academic Intervention Program

The program was analyzed and just two to three students were taking advantage of this service each year, so the services will be provided during classroom hours.

High School Library Retirements

There were two retirements at the high school library and only one of the librarians will be replaced. The district is striving to balance the scheduling so the library remains open all periods, but with the less staff there for supervision hours may need to be adjusted.

Security 

The security guard staff will go from seven to six district-wide, eliminating one position in the off-hour 7-11 p.m. shift. However, staff reductions like this are impacted by retirements and other factors, so these numbers are evolving at this point, Defendini said.

Special Ed Aids, Resource Rooms 

Resource rooms are capped at five students, but some are currently below that because of scheduling. All of them will be brought to the full five next year, so a .5 a special ed teacher will be lost. There will also be less classroom aids attached to the special ed program, those not tied to specific students.

Summer School Program

The elementary/middle summer school program was eliminated. Nurse coverage during the summer was also reduced.

Guidance Department

Guidance counselor evening hours during the school year were removed. The district also reduced summer days and evening hours by two days each summer for each counselor.

Facilities/Maintenance

Capital projects in the budget were reduced by $1 million this year, therefore there will be less in-house projects. Staff vacancies in this department from previous years have been filled with high level staff, so some vacancies will remain empty for next year, Defendini said.

Textbooks

The textbook budget was reduced because the district felt its collection is sustainable for the upcoming year.

Continuing Education

The district reduced instructional salaries for this program, which means classes with low enrollments will not run.

Math and Reading Support Services

The district will reallocate classroom staff to professional development to provide more support for teachers at both the elementary and middle school levels, said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Joan Ripley.

Teacher and Staff Reductions

Salaries make up the majority of the district’s total expenses at $78,053,893, which is $2.44 million less than last year. This number was reached by reducing the district’s full-time equivalent staff by 39.32 and teacher aides/monitors by around 13. The actual number of layoffs will less than half of that number, however, because of the retirements and realignments in services mentioned above. The final number is still being calculated. A was used to save 12-14 teaching positions in the district.

Tanii April 21, 2011 at 06:15 PM
"To help off-set these revenue losses and rising expenses, the budget uses $1,803,251 from the reserves and $5,196,749 from the fund balance - the money left over from last year- a total of $7 million." Is there any more money left over from last year? If so I would suggest using that "extra" money. Also if the District was able to run on last year with a 5.2m surplus then why do they need more and have to cut programs. Also wouldn't the 5.2 million surplus from 2010 cover the 4.5 increase in employee benefits costs? Maybe I am over simplifying or completely off the mark but something seems off.
Amanda Fiscina April 21, 2011 at 06:44 PM
It is more complicated than that. If you go to the Farmingdale School District website (http://www.farmingdaleschools.org/fps/fps.cfm) you can access the budget presentation, which outlines how the cost drivers and how reserves/fund balances work. However, if you were not at any of the budget workshops to hear the presentation explained some of it may not be clear. The next meetings are April 27, May 4 and May 10 and you can address your questions there to the board and administrators.
Tanii April 22, 2011 at 11:13 AM
Fair enough, I will try and get a sitter for at least one of those night. I have another question though does FSD participate in cooperative buying of text books and supplies?
Ed Sandt April 23, 2011 at 01:12 AM
I noticed the phrase "salary freeze" on the part of either the Administrative staff (Superintendants, etc.) or the Teachers union doesn't appear anywhere. When will this administration take a hard stand when it comes to salary increases, step-up's, etc.? The taxpayers of Farmingdale can no longer afford increases in the school taxes. Reality time has arrived folks! Ed S.
Sarah April 24, 2011 at 07:33 AM
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