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Amityville superintendent optimistic on school budget

A view of downtown Amityville. (June 5, 2011)

A view of downtown Amityville. (June 5, 2011) Credit: Alexi Knock

After years of state-mandated corrective action and uncomfortably tight budgets for Amityville schools, Superintendent John Williams began an interview about the district’s proposed 2013-14 budget with a note of optimism: “We feel as if there’s some momentum there.”

A week before the scheduled unveiling of an $81-million budget proposal, school officials said they are working on a draft that would stay within the state’s tax levy cap and lay off no teachers, although Williams did not rule out an increase in class sizes.

Some high school classes are “inefficiently small,” he said at a board of education meeting Wednesday night, while elementary school classes likely will stay the same, with plans to add another kindergarten section.

A recent $800,000 increase in state aid and successful negotiation of an early retirement plan for 16 senior teachers have given the district more room to maneuver than in recent years, officials said.

But some issues remain unresolved. Trustee Jeannette Santos objected to plans to draw down the unreserved fund balance to remain within the levy cap. Instead, she said, that money should be kept in case of emergency, even if it means cutting some items from the budget.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance Bill Fanning warned that leaving the balance untapped would mean “astronomical” staffing cuts.

Williams said he’d also been questioned about whether the district should keep on all of its instructional directors — professionals who observe classroom teaching and advise teachers and principals.

His emphatic answer was yes: The directors, he said, are “improving instruction, and there’s data to demonstrate that.”

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