Commack Adopts $166M Budget, Cuts Administrators

Adminstrators cut, intramural sports and clubs reinstated, tax levy raised to 2.96 percent.

The Commack Board of Education has adopted a $166,081,826 budget for the 2011-2012 school year that cuts administration and custodial staff instead of sports, clubs or teaching positions. 

The budget now goes to a public vote on May 17.

The final proposed budget reflects a budget-to-budget increase of 3.33 percent from the current year. The resulting tax levy is 2.96 percent.

Despite an 8.94 percent budget-to-budget loss in state operating aid and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, the district did not cut teachers or increase class size. Instead, the staff reductions occurred on the administrative and custodial levels, with two assistant superintendents and several custodians and maintenance workers eliminated, for a savings of $769,000. Further reductions of four chairperson positions and one clerical worker saved $140,000 and $93,250 respectively.

"It comes at a cost, we're forced to maintain our integrity with fewer staff," said Commack School District Superintendent Donald James.

To absorb some of the workload in the administrative office, the district plans to add a district office administrative assistant, increasing staff costs by $160,000.

The budget also includes a one-year reinstatement of several intramural sports and co-curricular clubs on the middle and high school levels, at a cost of $200,000.

"Although these reinstatements are only for a year, we figured that one year in the life of a child is a long time, so it was worth it," said James, who added that the programs would be cut in the event of a failed budget or mandated tax cap.

The district will also embarck on a 4-year lease purchase agreement for new computers through BOCES, adding $195,954 to the 2011-2012 budget.

In terms of revenue, Commack schools received a net gain of $4,430,000. An increase in state building aid garnered $3.7 million for the district. Tuition paid by families outside of the district for their children to attend specialized programs within Commack totaled $130,000. The district also received a of $601,408 from Long Island Power Authority, in response to the over the summer.

Staff Reduction Summary:

Reduction Savings 2 Assistant Superintendents $479,000 Custodians $290,000 4 Chairpersons
$140,000 1 Clerical $93,250

Restorations and Additions Summary:

Restoration/Addition Cost 1 Year—Intramural Sports & Clubs $200,000 Technology Lease $195,000 District Office Administrative Assistant $160,000

Monetary Gains Summary:

Source Amount State Aid Recovered $1,300,000 Building Aid Increase $3,700,000 Tuition Program $130,000 LIPA Rebate $601,408

Future Meetings and the Budget Vote
The next Board of Education meeting and formal budget hearing will take place May 5 at 8 p.m. at Residents will vote on the budget on Tuesday, May 17.

Patch is looking for community input on the budget and upcoming school board elections, to be . Send your thoughts to kaitlyn.piccoli@patch.com.

common sense April 21, 2011 at 12:42 PM
I dont see where tachers took a pay freeze or cut like they did in other districts on the island - did they?
ed tyrrell April 21, 2011 at 12:59 PM
why isn't Donald James taking a pay cut. He seems to be making enough to run three school districts. Maybe if more upper staff in the district would take pay cuts now our taxes would not have to go up at all. Thhey can get the cut back when times are better. It just seems that the board expects the taxpayers to acept the status quo on certain salaries,nothing should be off the table.
Kaitlyn Piccoli (Editor) April 21, 2011 at 01:09 PM
common sense—Teachers did not take a pay freeze or cut for the 2011-2012 year. Documents released by the district show that teachers participated in a voluntary 1.4 percent give back for the current school year, which saved about $800,000.
common sense April 21, 2011 at 01:35 PM
Thanks for the info Kaitlyn. So they didnt take a freeze - do you know what is their pay increase % is including any step increases for the year? Do these two together equal more then the 1.4 % giveback ?
Greg Martinez April 21, 2011 at 02:40 PM
An increase in taxes is a disaster in this economy. There are homeowners without jobs who are struggling just to keep their homes. Budget increases must not only be stopped, but there must be rollbacks in spending at all levels of government, Federal, State, Municipalities, and School Districts.
Anthony Zumpano April 21, 2011 at 03:06 PM
We can always further consolidate by having the administrators also sweep the hallways!
Geoberle April 22, 2011 at 12:10 AM
Lived in the district 50 years-----can't remember a year when we didn't get an increase. Laid off my administrators last year. Now LIPA increaed the our bill so we can give the school district a rebate. Golly----Just Love Commack ! !
estelle tedesco April 22, 2011 at 01:35 PM
How about having parents who have their children in sports and extra cirricular activities "kick" in for these expenses, instead of us seniors who could care less!!
parent April 23, 2011 at 09:27 PM
Where were all of you and your great ideas when the district was having over a dozen open meetings about the budget? Let me guess you were too busy and could not attend but you have all the time now to complain!!!!!
Greg Martinez April 24, 2011 at 03:24 AM
Debate and free speech occurs at physical meetings, and even more public meetings like here on the Patch which is accessible to anyone with the internet. Complaints yes. Also, detailed questions.
common sense April 24, 2011 at 10:53 AM
WHERE? working two jobs trying to afford the taxes that pay the pay increases and step increases we give the teachers when no one else in this economy is getting an increase
Michael April 27, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Kaitlyn, Isnt it true that the 1.4% "giveback" was done in exchange for a contract extension to 2014? The unfortunate thing is that the community was given no information about this negotiation until it was concluded. As a result, 75% to 80% of the district operating budget, which is comprised of salaries and benefits, has been locked in through 2014. That leaves 20% to 25% open for possible cuts in tough times.
Michael April 27, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Parent, I was at many of those meetings and what I have learned is that the residents have almost no power in budget creation process. Before you even walk into a budget meeting, 75% to 80% of the operating budget is already etched in stone and is not subject to discussion. The remaining 20% to 25% of the budget that is open to cuts primarily affect the students. Remember the Hunderfund and Feltman articles in Newsday over the past few years? If not, please revisit them.
Kaitlyn Piccoli (Editor) April 27, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Michael, You are correct. The 1.4% give back for this school year was given in exchange for a 3-year contract extension.
common sense April 27, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Thanks for the info Kaitlyn. So they didnt take a freeze - do you know what is their pay increase % is including any step increases for the year? Do these two together equal more then the 1.4 % giveback ?
Kaitlyn Piccoli (Editor) April 27, 2011 at 06:17 PM
common, I don't have the information in front of me at the moment, but I will look into it and get back to you ASAP.
Michael April 27, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Thanks Kaitlyn, I think its important for readers to be well informed about this issue and understand that the so named giveback was by no means a unilateral gesture by the union.
Michael R April 27, 2011 at 09:52 PM
I agree with several of the folks comments about how us tax payers truly have no voice during budget meetings. I moved to Commack 14 years ago & have seen my school taxes more than double while my job has been in jeopardy with no raises & less medical benefitsthe past 5 years. I work very hard & find it difficult to attend these budget meetings...has anyone suggested an online forum with the budget commitee? When I read about the teachers & other school district employee salaries & the benefits they get...I get sick! How about the retired Commack Super who is double dipping? My niece who just graduated last year with a teaching degree but can't find a job on LI (along with many others)...why is that? Perhaps because those tenured teachers and others know they have a good thing going & will never let it go!
Michael April 28, 2011 at 12:06 AM
Ive been in Commack over 15 years and I am in the same situation as you. There are two retired Commack Superintendants, Hunderfund and Feltman. Both are entitled to outlandish pensions that taxpayers will be on the hook for for the rest of their lives. Worse though is the provisions in the Superintendent contract that is signed by the Board of Trustees. These contracts (for both Hunderfund and Feltman), provided quasi deferred compensation packages by granting outrageous sick and vacation time that was allowed to be banked to the tune of 200 days a year in the case of Feltman. Thats why he was able to retire with a $400,000 windfall payment from the district. Superintendents are also even given a yearly car allowance of $8,000 a year. Is that necessary? Is there that much travel required of a Superintendent? If so, the District could lease a Prius or Civic for a lot less than $8,000 a year and let the Superintendent borrow the keys any time he needs to hit the road!!!!!!!
chefcristo April 28, 2011 at 10:55 AM
Kaitlyn Piccoli (Editor) April 28, 2011 at 07:42 PM
common sense, to answer the question you posed earlier about the teachers' pay increase: I just attended a Commack Community Association in which Dr. James spoke about the budget. He said that for the 2011-12 school year, teachers negotiated a 1% raise, in addition to a 3% step increase. So, yes, the raises and step increases they will receive next year more than double the 1.4% giveback from this current school year.
Michael April 28, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Excellent fiscal responsibility on the part of the Board. Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Bank released its inflation projections for Core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) for 2011 through 2013. In 2011, the Fed predicts 1.1% to 2.0% inflation, for 2012, the Fed predicts 1.1% to 2.0% inflation, and for 2013, the Fed predicts 1.2% to 2.0% inflation. Therefore, its a safe bet that the Commack school district will be proposing budget increases that exceed the rate of inflation for the next two years at the very least.
common sense April 29, 2011 at 01:41 AM
Thanks Kaitlyn. So when most americans are still not getting increases or worse yet getting laid off ,Commack teachers are getting a 2.5% pay increase and the taxpayer once again foots the bill.
Pleasantonian May 07, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Michael, If you read the courier or went on the school district website you would have seen that Dr. James answered every question that was asked on the website. There have been so many opportunites to talk personally with the superintendant he met at homes community meetings he would have met you at your house or the diner. Did you go to any school board meetings, PTA meetings, council meetings called his office to ask your questions????? Why do people wait until its too late GET INVOLVED!!!


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