Few athletic cuts are planned for the 2013-14 year, but transportation from clubs and sports may be reduced, school district administrators said during a budget workshop Thursday at Commack High School.
“Our main objective was to keep the program intact. We don’t want to take away the opportunity for our children to participate so we didn’t really go into reductions,” Patrick Friel, director of health, physical education and recreation, said at the meeting.
Friel said that two sports will be reconfigured at the middle school level: gymnastics and wrestling. Gymnasts who are skilled enough to compete on the high school level will be moved up to the varsity team.
“Gymnastics is a unique sport. It is a skill-specific sport. You can be a level 10-gymnast and be 10 years old. You can be a level 10-gymnast and be 17 years old, so we really think it’s a good opportunity to kind of push those girls, get them into a higher level of competition and not take the opportunity away from them to participate,” he said.
There are currently 14 members on the middle school team.
Middle School wrestling, which was once split into two teams, will be combined into one due to lowered interest in the sport. Four years ago, about 65 students participated in the sport. This year, only 27 students tried out, the director said.
“No one is going to get cut. We’re still going to allow for every child who tries out, to wrestle, but we’re going to keep them together, build up morale and have the pride back in the wrestling room,” Friel said.
While nearly all sports are staying in the budget, transportation for the students to get back home may be limited. The 3:30 p.m. bus is cut in the proposed spending plan, which particularly affects those students who stay after school for clubs or extra help.
The 5:15 p.m. transportation, which is the most populated of the late buses due mostly to athletics, is still in the budget.
Debate over the potential cut of the 3:30 p.m. bus was sparked during the first budget workshop.
“The value that you’re placing on that bus is my concern,” Theresa Burke said, while expressing her thoughts that by eliminating the 3:30 p.m. bus, a student staying after for academic reasons would be less of a priority than one staying late for a sport.
Superintendent Donald James said that the administration is doing an analysis of both late buses and may come back with a compromise on April 4.
“We’re going to come back with perhaps a revised plan so that students will be transported whether they’re 3:30 or 5:15, so there’s more to come on that,” he said.
Members of the school board also said that since parents would be more likely to be able to pick up their child at 5:15 p.m., rather than at 3:30 p.m., limiting the later bus may be more accommodating.
While those details of the budget were discussed, some residents looked for answers to the growing burden of salaries and employee benefits instead. The Commack School District is looking at an 18.64 percent increase in employee benefits next school year, partly due to increases into the retirement system, which cannot be negotiated.
“The biggest thing in budget is the salary and the benefits, but we never talk about that. We talk about a 3:30 bus out of a school. We could pass the hat around for that,” William Marchesi, who has lived in Commack for 54 years, said.
“Everyone is working for less and doing more. It doesn’t look like it’s translating that way to the school budgets,” he added.
The superintendent said that the administration will be working with its collective bargaining units to enter renegotions and manage employee costs. “Those are things that are in consideration – absolutely,” he said.
Details of those undistributed costs will be discussed at the next budget workshop March 21.