Wyandanch school district may be forced to cut sports

May 20, 2010 3:23:04 PM PDT
A school district on Long Island says it may be forced to eliminate all sports programs next year. And there may be other cuts. That's because voters in the Wyandanch school district voted down a property tax increase earlier this week.

At the high school, you can't walk in the front door without reading about the school's proud sports history. To students like Charles Johnson, the Wyandanch Warriors mean the world.

"Sports is the only thing we really look forward to. And if they take it from us, what's the point of even coming," said Johnson.

But in one of Long Island's poorest districts, there's simply no money to keep the program going. The situation so dire, administrators may be forced to eliminate the entire athletic program.

"If you're already down to the bone, we're starting to cut into the bone," said acting Superintendent Pless Dickerson.

Dickerson is trying to clean up the mess. Over the past three years, he says the district spent its whole reserve account to balance a $4 million deficit.

Now, it's losing a $1.6 million state grant, and it expects massive cuts from Albany.

To fill the gap, the school board requested a nearly 14 percent tax hike. But on Tuesday, voters said no way.

"They came out and they said, no we can't afford it and we can't agree to it. So we've gone back to the drawing board," adds Dickerson.

But if they can't raise taxes, Dickerson says he'd be forced to cut full-day kindergarten to half day. And that historic sports program would be history.

The Wyandanch Warriors may live to see another day. The district coming up with a 'plan b' budget which would mean less drastic tax hikes and some significant cuts, though sports would stay intact.

A vote on that plan, set for next month.