Over the past seven years, the Sachem Central School District has seen its budget increase 6 percent, from $279 million to $296 million. In that same period, enrollment has dipped 10 percent, from 15,006 to 13,577. That means spending went up about 17 percent per student in that time. General inflation was only about 10 percent over the same period.
Faced with numbers like that, the district had little choice but to vote to close three schools, as it did last week. According to school board president Anthony Falco, the district, the second-largest on Long Island, might have to shutter more schools in the future. And a lot of other school districts on Long Island will have to do the same.
It’s not as if the district didn’t try to find other ways to save money. In September, Sachem made $2.5 million in spending cuts to reallocate money toward special education and other costs. That meant eliminating 12 custodial positions and a maintenance worker, and cutting budgets for clubs and athletics. Just barely spared was $345,000 for kindergarten aides, spending that parents fought hardest to keep on the books.
Education experts often say that the only way to save significant money is to close buildings. Doing so cuts down tremendously on administrative costs and creates efficiencies at other district schools.
School districts are not jobs programs, nor do they guarantee kids will be educated in their own neighborhoods. School costs and property taxes simply can’t be allowed to rise faster than taxpayer incomes, as they have for years.