Wyandanch school district pitches $6 million in cuts in revised budget

Kristin Thorne Image
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Long Island school district pitches $6 million in cuts in revised budget
Kristin Thorne reports on the school budget cuts in Wyandanch.

WYANDANCH, Long Island (WABC) -- The Wyandanch school district announced Wednesday night a revised budget plan which would cut personnel, several teacher positions, technology equipment and some programs in order to trim almost $6 million from the budget.

The proposed budget will also raise the school portion of residents' property taxes by 9 percent.

The budget includes reductions in athletics and sports programs, the elimination of a science teacher, ELA teacher, guidance counselor, classroom monitors and STEAM personnel. It calls for the outsourcing of transportation and security in order to cut costs.

"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," said superintendent Mary Jones.

Last week voters in Wyandanch rejected the school budget by 332-149. It called for a 40.93 percent property tax increase and would have reduced school bus service in the 2019-2020 school year. It was the only school budget rejected on Long Island.

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

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.