More than 80 teachers and assistants in Smithtown’s School Age Child Care program would get raises under a proposal the department head is scheduled to present Tuesday to town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim.
Certified teachers, now paid $18.50 per hour, would be bumped to $20.50; assistants paid $12 per hour would be bumped to $14. The 85 educators have not had a raise in five years, town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said in an interview. New York State minimum wage on Long Island is $13, but municipalities are exempt from that standard, she said.
The nonunion jobs are part-time, and the pay is comparable to what the town pays its summer recreation leaders. Those wages have been sufficient to retain most teachers in the program but have made it hard to hire new ones, she said.
As many as 700 children participate in the program, which offers early morning and afternoon care at 11 schools in the Smithtown and Kings Park school districts. Parents pay up to $483 per month per child for morning and afternoon care.
“It’s an invaluable service, and that’s why everybody is doing what they can” to ensure the raises go through, Garguilo said.
The raises could take effect this year after town council approval. Fees — which are now the program's sole source of funding — could rise in subsequent years to keep pace, Garguilo said, though that is not guaranteed. Raises could allow the town to hire more teachers, admit more children and keep fees unchanged.
A town application to create its own not-for-profit organization to pursue fundraising, sponsorships and grants is expected to win approval later this year and could also give the town flexibility on child care program fees.
While Wehrheim has prepared two town budgets as supervisor, Garguilo said he did not learn of the pay request until Maureen Fiorello, the department head, raised it in January.
The matter became public at a March 3 town council meeting. “We can pay them a fair wage but so far we have chosen not to do it,” said Anthony Coates, a Head of the Harbor resident.
Leaders of the civic association We Are Smithtown also weighed in.
“Refusing to pay even the minimum wage is hardly consistent with the goal of recruiting and retaining the right kind of people that will care for our children,” James Bouklas, the group’s president, said in a statement group vice president Phyllis Hart read into the record.
Wehrheim said the pay had been set under his predecessor’s administration. “We have immediately gone to work on those increases,” he said. “I believe we’ll be able to accomplish this.”