Great Neck school board to seek employee rehires amid staff cuts

Neglah Sharma And Joe Nikic

After unveiling its $218.93 million budget last week that calls for cuts to 14 teaching positions and 21 other employees, Great Neck Public Schools officials said the district was looking at ways to rehire employees who get laid off.

“Through retirements, we are going to be able to consider many of those people for other positions if they qualify for them,” District Assistant Superintendent for Business John Powell said. “We’re trying to reduce as much through efficiency and attrition but where possible we will re-employ some of these people in existing openings that were not slated to be reduced.”

Board Vice President Larry Gross said at last Monday’s board meeting after hiring 24 new full-time positions last year the district would need to reduce the number of teachers by 14 in the 2016-17 school year.

Powell said 21 non-teaching positions would also need to be eliminated to keep the budget under the state-mandated .17 percent tax cap.

These employees include one full-time administrative staff member, nine paraprofessionals, three full-time and three part-time clerical staff members, one buildings and grounds department supervisor and four cleaning attendants.

“We won’t be able to get everybody, but as many as we can where there’s a position, and the person can do the job, we will redirect that person to that open position,” Powell said.

He also said the decision to decrease spending in the budget came down to either cutting classroom programs or district staff members.

“We try to make any reductions as far away from the classroom as possible,” Powell said. “Every position is important and we value everybody that works for us, however, in making these difficult cuts, which are very painful, unfortunately you will not see these types of numbers without touching the instructional program.”

The preliminary budget for 2016-17 school year calls for a $2,229,611, or 1.03 percent, increase to the current year’s budget.

At a budget workshop on Saturday, the board presented how it intended to spend $19 million of a capital reserve fund established last year after residents voted to approve a 10-year capital plan for infrastructure improvements to the district’s school buildings.

Great Neck South High School student government president Tina Pavlovich said that although some of the district’s buildings have air conditioning in its classrooms, the student body wanted all classrooms and buildings to be air conditioned.

“Our school is fighting for air conditioning for a very long time,” Pavlovich said. “We were told that the air conditioning and roofing [should] be done at the same time.”

The district said it plans to repair roofing in the near future, but the cost is still unknown.

If air conditioners were installed in every school within the district in addition to roofing repairs, Powell said, it would add an estimated $12.1 million in costs.

“If we were to install AC’s in every building, it would take us well out of the $19 million, and we would then have to cut numerous other projects,” Board President Barbara Berkowitz said.

Powell said the district had an “external building study” completed that identified over $100 million in needs for the district’s buildings.

“Not that we’re going to do all of those projects,” he said. “But a decision will be made on what to move forward on and what not to.”

The board said it is seeking community input before the budget is finalized.

Powell said staff cuts would continue to be discussed and the board would continue to look for ways to prevent the need for staff cuts.

“It’s not just the 16-17 year we are positioning ourselves for, we are also thinking about certain financial concerns we will be faced in the 17-18 budget,” he said. “We certainly don’t want to make any decisions that would further make those situations worse.”

An informal budget hearing is scheduled for April 4 at 7:30 p.m. at North Middle School, followed by an official hearing and adoption on April 19 at 7:30 p.m. at South High School.

For registered voters living north of the LIRR, the final budget vote is set for Tuesday, May 17, from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. at E.M Baker School, while registered voters living south of the LIRR are required to go to South High School’s west gym to vote.

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Neglah Sharma And Joe Nikic

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