Amityville schools Superintendent Gina Talbert, center, during a meeting of...

Amityville schools Superintendent Gina Talbert, center, during a meeting of the Amityville school board at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School Wednesday. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

The Amityville school board has approved laying off 47 teachers and staff to bridge a $3.6 million deficit, despite the objections of community members who say the losses will hurt children’s education.

The board of education approved the job losses by a 4-1 vote during a budget workshop Wednesday night at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School. Trustee Juan Leon cast the only opposing vote.

"We need this district to shine. This really tarnished us," Leon said of the district's financial troubles.

In approving the layoffs — 25 teachers, six pupil personnel staff, six teacher assistants, five monitors, two security staff, two administrators and one custodian — officials said the board will continue to look for alternatives, including meeting with residents to hear their ideas.

“We are listening and we do hear you,” said Olivia Buatsi, assistant superintendent for Finance and Operations.

The 25 teachers are 7.7% of the 323 full-time teaching staff.

Superintendent Gina Talbert has attributed the deficit in the school district budget that ends in June to increased costs due to more students in charter schools, special education and BOCES. Several grants, including federal pandemic aid, are running out, and increased costs were also seen in security, pension and health insurance, she said. 

Officials have said the district's unassigned fund balance — the accumulation of excess revenues — plummeted from $4.2 million at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year to $686,244 currently. 

They also pointed to reductions elsewhere in the district budget for the 2024-25 school year. Travel expenses for the school board, for instance, were reduced from $15,000 to $1,000, officials said.

Talbert has noted the number of students enrolling in charter schools grew from 35 in 2021 to 55 currently. The costs increased $252,896, or 27%, from $924,049 to $1,176,945, she said. School districts are required to pay tuition for students who attend charter schools.

After the school board approves the budget for next school year, voters will have a say on the spending plan, as well as board elections, on May 21.

Board president Lisa Johnson said the board understood the gravity of the layoffs but that the savings were necessary.

“As we sit here, we care about every single student and every employee,” Johnson said, adding that cuts also were made elsewhere in the budget. “We did our due diligence.”

About 2,756 students were enrolled in Amityville schools in the 2022-23 school year, according to state Education Department statistics. Of those, 59% are Latino; 31% Black; and 5% white. A total of 77% of students are considered economically disadvantaged, according to department data.

Parent Megan Messmann, who has two children in the school system, said the staff cuts will hurt children’s education and the board should find other avenues of savings.

“You’re not thinking outside the box or thinking about the children in the district,” she said.

Several community members took exception to the school board voting on the layoffs before opening the meeting for public comment.

"You're already going to make your vote, so you don't want to hear from the community," Messmann said.

Johnson said there will be more opportunities for community input. The next budget meeting is Wednesday.

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