Shifts in staffing will be playing a big role in Huntington school district’s 2015-16 budget, as Superintendent Jim Polansky is recommending funding nearly 19 new positions — including hiring a new assistant principal at the high school.
“I’m just going to warn the board that what I’m about to present to you is what I believe is needed to service the district, K to 12,” Polansky said prior to a budget presentation on staffing on Monday night.
Polansky pitched hiring a new assistant principal at an estimated cost of $143,792, which does not include benefits. The position isn’t included in his proposed approximately $120.1 million working budget, “but I do believe that it’s something worthy of consideration,” he said, noting he’s thought about it for “quite a bit of time.”
The superintendent pointed out that there will be more than 1,400 students at the high school next year and 160 staff members and teachers who require observations and regular reports that can be time consuming for just two administrators.
“To run a building of that size with a principal and an assistant principal as the only two administrators, can it be done?” Polansky said. “Yes. Is it tough to do? Yes.”
Polansky pitched funding 18.7 additional staff positions next ranging from instructional, noninstructional and administrative employees. The greatest increase in instructional staff is in the area of bilingual and ESL teachers, where Polansky suggested hiring 3.6 additional instructors mostly at the high school.
The increase is needed, Polansky said, because of changes in New York State Education Department requirements governing ESL/bilingual education, which is known as Part 154.
“This does not mean there is a tremendous increase in ESL students, but there is an increase in the amount of services we have to provide for them based on Part 154.2 regulations,” Polansky said. “That hits the high school most significantly.”
School board President Emily Rogan added, “This is not necessarily in terms of the number of kids but the way and how we distribute services.”
School board member Bill Dwyer said the additional bilingual/ESL instructors would cost the district around $300,000 and asked if this cost would qualify as an unfunded mandate.
“That is most definitely what we call an unfunded mandate,” Polansky said.
All told, Polansky is recommending funding four new instructional positions at the elementary school, 7.7 instructional positions at the middle and high schools, six noninstructional positions and one assistant principal at the high school.
Susan Tully, a Huntington resident, urged board members to consider the long-term financial impacts of their present-day budget decisions. She noted that due to high taxes and cost of living, the area is becoming too expensive to live in for young people already, and she doesn’t want to see Huntington become just “a community of a bunch of old people.”
So far, the proposed budget includes funding for 12 contingent positions, meaning most of the proposed increase in staff is already accounted for. However, next year’s proposed $120 million spending plan is still about $408,000 above where it needs to be, as per a state-mandated cap on tax levy increases. Polansky expressed his hope that once the state aid figures become clearer, coupled with pending retirements, the gap will be closed.
The district could see a significant reduction in staff through two early retirement incentives it is offering its administrators and teachers. Five employees, including Huntington High School Principal Carmela Leonardi and Carmen Kasper, the district’s director of foreign language, ESL and bilingual programs, have already taken advantage of the incentive.