In a move aimed at addressing concerns over a worsening economy, the Riverhead school district last week froze administrators' wage increases for next year. Riverhead is believed to be the first district on Long Island to take such action.
"We're in an economic time where people are being laid off back and forth," Superintendent Diane Scricca said. "I don't think the field of education, or any field, is exempt from that."
Eliminating administrators' 3.5 percent raise will save the district $112,000, Scricca said. The current year's budget is $102,514,445.
The move was hailed by taxpayer groups who hoped it would put pressure on teachers to follow suit.
"It'll make a good example to the teachers' unions," said East Islip Tax Pac member Andrea Vecchio. "Those are the big numbers."
Art Scheuermann, general counsel for the School Administrators Association of New York State, said Riverhead is the second state district to take such action. In December, Westchester County's Katonah-Lewisboro district agreed to a one-year freeze on salaries. On Tuesday, another Westchester district, Ossining, is expected to pass a similar freeze.
But Scheuermann said administrator salary increases make up such a small portion of the budget that he doesn't see the act catching on. "This is not a trend at all," he said. "It's more a symbolic gesture."
Scricca, who said she is in discussions with Riverhead's board to forego her raise as well, said she approached Riverhead Central Faculty Association president Barbara Barosa about teachers taking a similar freeze but was rebuffed. Barosa said Scricca only approached her the day before the vote and made no mention of using the freeze to save teacher positions.
"We're not adverse to trying to find ways to save money and save jobs," Barosa said. "But there are other ways to save money than making people take freezes. I believe she's just trying to find a reason to cut more positions."
Board member Ann Cotton-DeGrasse, a former teachers' union president who voted against the freeze, said the move does put pressure on other school worker unions. She said she thinks all unions would be willing to discuss a wage halt, but doing so now would be premature.
"We have not seen one scrap of anything pertaining to the projected budget," Cotton-DeGrasse said. "Until we know the final figures coming down from the state and what we're getting from the federal government, I think that it's inappropriate to go to employees and ask them to take a freeze."
But Dave Densieski, president of the Riverhead Administrators Association, cited the economy in saying he hopes other administrators take Riverhead's cue. "When our constituents are losing their jobs, for us not to try and help out and do our part could be a little arrogant," he said.