Times of Smithtown: More state aid for Smithtown, Kings Park schools

John J. Flanagan

April 04, 2013

By Monica Gleberman & Rachel Shapiro - April 3, 2013

With $1.6 million more in state aid expected for next school year, Smithtown schools Superintendent Anthony Annunziato said he is now proposing only tier one cuts to help eliminate the gap between revenue and expenditures for the upcoming school year.

At Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting, Annunziato said revenue for 2013-14 is now expected to be $224 million, with expenditures at $227 million. To remain within the state-mandated tax levy increase cap of 3.63 percent — which includes exemptions for certain costs — Annunziato said the district would have to cut at least $2.8 million.

Under the governor's earlier budget proposal, the school district was going to lose a lot of high-tax aid, which was reinstated in the adopted budget.

In the superintendent's most recent proposed budget, Annunziato is asking the board to consider tier one reductions that consist of increasing middle school class size to high 20s, changing sixth-grade PE from every day to every other day and reducing funding for the summer reading program by $40,000.

These projected cuts are down from earlier presentations where Annunziato included more severe cuts he called tier two and three. Now only being considered if the budget fails, tier two cuts include eliminating cocurricular activities, late buses and middle school sports. Tier three cuts would include eliminating electives, full-day kindergarten and going from a nine-period day to an eight-period day at the middle school and high school.

In an interview after the meeting, Annunziato said with state aid projections coming in higher than what the district budgeted for, he was able to remove a lot of programs from the cut list.

"The restoration of the high-tax aid means restoration of programs that we would normally have to eliminate in order to get to the property tax cap," Annunziato said. "We need to thank Senator Flanagan because I know he worked tirelessly to get the high-tax aid restored. It's encouraging and makes a big difference because you can see a lot of programs in tier two and three that will not be lost because of that money."

Although it's good news, Annunziato said the district will always be battling a deficit and must look at alternative ways to bring costs down, including the possibility of redistricting. Annunziato said he plans on discussing the possibility of redistricting in 2015-16 at the next board meeting on April 9 at 8 pm in the Joseph M. Barton building at New York Avenue.

Kings Park sees more

A short while ago, Kings Park schools were bracing for a loss of state aid next year. Instead, the school district will see an increase of about $124,000, Superintendent Susan Agruso said. The state restored about $600,000 it had cut from high-tax aid to the district.

"We're happy with at least a small increase," Agruso said in a phone interview.

The slight change means a lot to the small district, which will be able to keep its AP computer science class that the district was considering cancelling.  Also, the district won't cut as many teachers as it had initially anticipated. The district was considering cutting 18 teachers and expects to have an updated number soon.

"We still have a deficit but it will be smaller so we're excited about that," Agruso said.

The district is not considering any program cuts. "If we lose staff, classes will be a little bit bigger," she said, but no programs will be cut.

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