On Feb. 28, the Sachem board of education discussed a $1 million loss in state aid, which now puts schools and programs at risk of being cut. Even with the expected turn out, some of the 800 attendees were still left standing in the Samoset Middle School auditorium once the meeting came to a close.
“Believe me, not one member of this board wants to cut programs or close buildings, but the state has put us in such a position,” explained Sachem board of education member, President Robert Scavo.
The $1 million loss has forced the board to review the 2013-2014 budget. Due to this cut and in order to make up for the deficit of funding, a tax increase of 16 percent is necessary.
Associate Superintendent, Bruce Signer, presented an eight percent tax increase in a budget outlook to the board. However, even with the tax increase, the deficit will not be met and will result in changes among the Sachem schools. This means several extracurricular activities including sports and clubs will still be in jeopardy of being cut. Two of the districts middle schools and full day kindergarten classes will also be affected by the budget.
Both students and parents pleaded with the board of education to keep schools, sports, and activities available to students. Sachem students explained to the board how much music and clubs meant to them and their education.
Parents discussed their concerns regarding overpopulation of schools and classrooms. Other parents were worried that with the clubs and activities being cut, the chances of their children getting into college could be lessened.
“The thought I have to beg you (board of education) for an education is something I never thought we would have to do,” said Sachem dad, Pat Hardy.
Hardy is the father of two boys who both participate in Sachem’s sports. He was worried about what athletes would do with their free time if sports ceased to exist.
“It would be terrible for all those kids hanging out on the streets and stuff,” said John Farrel of Holtsville.
Representative from the office of Assemblymen, Al Grad, and Sachem alumni, Doug Smith addressed the audience and encouraged them to continue their letter writing to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Out of the 7,000 letters that were sent to the Governor’s office in Albany, Smith read an excerpt from Kyle Killkenny, Sachem North High School sophomore student. His words received a standing ovation.
“Speak for sachem, be the voices for those who do not have any,” Killkenny said as the crowd cheered. He spoke on behalf his brother who is autistic and others that face challenges alike.
He additionally commented that the teachers which the board wants to cut are the same teachers who have provided him with the ability to write letters and be an advocate for his high school. An even larger applause in the crowd took place when Killkenny said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Governor, this will not stand with the Sachem Community.”
After hearing concerns from the community and witnessing the support, Scavo asked Singer to create a new budget outlook that would propose an 11 percent tax increase as opposed to the originally proposed eight percent.
This increase would leave full day kindergarten classes along with both middle schools open. However, some clubs and programs will still have to be cut across the district to ensure that no single school suffers.
“Everyone’s a little mad, but no one hates us,” Scavo said.
In the history of Sachem school district, a budget over five percent has never passed. In order for the proposed budget of 11 percent to be accepted, 60 percent of the voters must agree.