Increased class sizes, 19 teachers not replaced, excessed with $5.8 million budget gap

State foundation aid restoration would bring back teachers


On Wednesday, March 27, Dr. Marc Ferris, superintendent of Sayville school district, revealed the preliminary budget proposal for the 2024-2025 school year, which has a $5.8 million gap, mostly owing to the proposed $3.4 million reduction in state foundation aid.

The school budget was prepared in the event Governor Hochul’s proposed budget, with the reduced foundation aid, passes in its current state, but the Senate and Assembly will not finalize until later in April (which is past the original deadline of April 1).

The Sayville school district’s $5.8 million difference between revenue and expenditures was also due to a 17% increase in cost of living expenses (e.g. electric, gas, oil, water, goods, and services), health and pension increases, and debt service.

“We could have absorbed these costs on their own, but with the $3.4 million reduction in state aid, we had to make cuts,” said Dr. Ferris.

With twelve secondary teachers and five elementary teachers retiring and fourteen of those positions not being replaced, the district would be able to save $2,174,987.

Retirement incentives were utilized to allow teachers to retire who were previously unable to in order to retain as many current teachers on staff.

“If you do one for one and you don’t replace then you can keep…you end up saving more teachers,” said Ferris.

With typical application of retirement incentives, Ferris said the original projection would have been around $800,000 in savings, but that was increased this year to close the budget gap.

After meeting with principals to determine where cuts could be made without program disruptions to students, the staff to be excessed included two elementary positions (teachers), 3 secondary positions (teachers), 1 district-wide position, and 1 administrator.

A part-time custodian had left the district and will not be replaced. In addition six secondary program aids positions will not be filled, but the loss is due to attrition.

“If we get restoration [of state foundation aid] this will be the first area that we would look to restore,” said Ferris.

Implementation of this budget and cuts to teachers would result in some classroom size increases.

Notably, first grade classes would go from 15/16 to 23/24 students, secondary English class sizes would go from the teens to 23/27, and secondary social studies would go from the teens to 21/25.

With declining enrollment (i.e. 230 seniors will graduate and only 190 freshman will come to the high school next school year), the impact on class sizes is minimized according to Ferris.

About $2.5 million in cuts were made to non-personnel budgets with $427,900 cut from the buildings and grounds funds.

Ferris said that all “non-essential” projects would be put on hold for this year, but warned that pushing back infrastructure projects until dire necessity would cost the school district more in the end.

The curriculum and instruction budget was also cut $385,270 which would mean that no professional development courses would take place in Sayville school district including the summer curriculum writing session. A program with Teachers College that is grant funded will continue, but not with professionals from the organization.

Ferris said there was “literally nothing in the account” for professional development and that “we felt we had to go there first” for cuts.

Technology was cut $243,604 with Smart Boards and Chromebooks scrutinized and only “essentials” included “with no play/room for anything else.”

Athletics were reduced $83,550, but Ferris stated that no teams would be dissolved or unstaffed and that the cut covered mostly supply expenditures.

“All teams will run, all teams will have everything they need. There were some new jerseys we were going to get but we can’t do that right now,” said Ferris.

Employee benefits ran a savings of $200,000 based on retirements.

Security upgrades and enhancements were cut $142,401, but Ferris said this would have no impact on the current security program or number of personnel, but that expansions planned would no longer be carried out.

“We have the exact same security in this budget as last year,” said Ferris.

Transporation was able to be cut $300,000 with less services needed for special needs students due to declining enrollment. Ferris warned that this number only represented perhaps seven or eight students and that this number would increase if students with these needs were to enter the district.

The debt service was brought down $200,000 from the $1.1 million from last year’s budget.

The biggest budget gap non-personnel closer was $600,000 from the unemployment reserve which is currently at double the amount.

“We wanted to spend this money to keep teachers employed instead of paying teachers that are unemployed,” said Ferris.


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