Wyandanch school district forced to cut jobs, even if budget passes

WYANDANCH, Long Island (WABC) -- A Long Island school district is forced to cut jobs, even if a proposed $73.3 million budget passes.

Wyandanch School District says it will cut 10 administrative, teaching and other staff jobs.

It will also slash $1 million from bus transportation.

If the budget is defeated, the cuts will have to be even more extreme.

The revamped $73.3 million budget goes up for a vote at the end of the month after the original budget was rejected in May.

The budget includes a property tax hike for residents.

"These are extremely huge decisions that have to be made, but if we are to present a balanced budget to the public after review of the first budget this is what it entails," Superintendent Mary Jones said.

State auditors have warned the school district it needs to cut costs and that it is spending millions more than it has available.

Jones said the cause of the budget issues includes paying for an influx of hundreds of immigrant children from the border, which cost the district about $4.5 million over the past few years. Jones said the district had to purchase six portable classrooms and had to rent space in the nearby Half Hollow Hills school district. She said costs also included extra materials, transportation and after-school academic support for the new students.

"Monies we had in our reserves we had to use to meet the spacing needs," Jones said. "We were under the impression that because we filed our papers to the state, the state would reimburse us for those dollars that we had spent, but that is not the case."

Jones described the other issue as a "snafu" in the district's business department. She said someone after the 2017-2018 school year provided inaccurate information to the district and the district later found out it owed $2 million in unpaid bills. Those costs have now been rolled over.

"Although we appear on the surface to be disorganized and not knowing how our dollars our spent, that's far from the truth," Jones said.

Kenneth Skeen is the head of grounds and maintenance for the school district. His job will most likely be cut in the new budget. Skeen believes Jones should be removed from the school district.

"I believe someone is responsible for this crisis and it starts from the top," Skeen said.

Parent Samantha Lawson said she's frustrated by the way the district and school board have handled the financial crisis.

"There's lack of information, there's lack of accountability," she said.

Jones said despite the budget woes, positive steps are being made in the district.

"We are making strides in increased student achievement strides alongside our difficulties, and I think that's laudable for us," she said.

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