In an interview with SmithtownRadio.com, Ehmann says the Smithtown Central School District is “looking at every dollar not associated with a person” to close an $8 million gap in the 2011-2012 school year budget.
After an over two percent increase in retirement and 10 percent increase on health benefits, the district faces an $8 million deficit. A gap projected to be partially filled by $3 million from property taxes. However with Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo set to limit property tax increases to two percent, Ehmann explains they will not be able to collect more than an additional $3 million from the community.
The district had been gathering $158 million in taxes and looks to collect $161 million next year.
Let us know your thoughts by sounding off in our comment section below: If Cuomo did not limit property taxes, would you be willing to pay extra to keep a school open?
Ehmann says the idea of closing a school is simply an “exercise in feasibility.” But Ehmann says with already limited transportation, a limit on property taxes and the goal of next reducing school programs, there are only so many cards left on the table.
The district is looking at closing one of three elementary schools: Nesconset, Dogwood or Branch Brook. The move is said to save the district $400,000 after the elimination of five teaching positions. The district would also save on utilities such as heat and electricity.
Enrollment at both Nesconset and Dogwood is down, explains Ehmann. And the relocation of kids at Branch Brook would give them a “better campus situation” with more field space. “But we need to keep neighborhoods and the feeder pattern intact,” says Ehmann. “We pride ourselves on community schools.”
When talking about a feeder panel, Ehmann is worried moving students to another school could potentially disrupt borders for middle and high schools.
A decision has not yet been made regarding if a school will be closed. A vote on closing a particular building could come this spring.