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Brentwood schools budget would cut 70 teachers

More than 70 teachers would be laid off in a $340 million budget proposal adopted Wednesday night by the Brentwood school board.

The 2013-14 spending plan, which also would eliminate non-mandated elementary music and art programs, was approved after board members fought fiercely about where to make cuts.

Ninety jobs in all would be lost under the new budget, district spokesman Felix Adeyeye said.

Trustee George Talley was the sole no vote and Lorraine Pace abstained. Both are up for re-election May 21, when the budget goes before the public.

"I think we might be making poor choices here," Talley said at the meeting, advocating that the district cut back on overtime, close its night school and eliminate the Early Intervention Program in order to restore funding to art and music programs. Board president Helen Moss and trustee Keith Allison vociferously rejected his suggestions.

Brentwood, Long Island's largest district with more than 17,000 students, cut more than 180 teaching positions in the three previous years. Thirty-four teaching positions were cut in 2012, and the district shed 89 teaching jobs in 2011 through retirement incentives and pink slips. At the time, officials said layoffs would have been worse if the local teachers' union had not given up $900 per person in back pay. In 2010, the district lost 60 teaching jobs.

The spending plan adopted Wednesday represents a 4.84 percent increase over 2012-13 and includes a 3.87 percent tax levy hike, which equals the district's adjusted tax levy cap, meaning the budget will need a simple majority vote by residents to pass.

But residents who spoke out against the cuts pleaded with the unions and the school board to find a way to save jobs. Several suggested a wage freeze.

"You should act as unions, and that means you should take care of your own," said Brentwood parent Robert Feliciano. "You have music and arts teachers paying dues into this union who now feel like they're being played."

Physical education teacher Ron Hudson said that, as a teacher, "I'm willing to forgo anything to keep our programs in the schools."

Moss and Superintendent Joseph Bond said at the meeting that, if the unions agreed to a wage freeze, the district would be able to save the 90 positions.

"The superintendent and the board are working diligently with our bargaining units, and they are currently in discussion and are confident that there will be some concessions," Adeyeye said yesterdayThursday.

Brentwood Teachers Association president Kevin Coyne did not return calls seeking comment.

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