Pleasantville athletic director, 7 supervisors may face layoffs

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PLEASANTVILLE – The school district could be in the hole financially by the end of the year unless its leaders and the incoming school board take immediate and “difficult” action, Robert Swartz, the district’s accounting consultant warned.

Swartz told the Board of Education that the district could spend through its financial reserves of $6 million before the fiscal year ends June 30.

“I don’t want to tell you this, but I have to,” he said at the board’s Tuesday, Dec. 11 meeting. “I need to scare you. I am very concerned about the fiscal stability of the district.”

Because of unbudgeted raises, the cost of legal settlements, $1.2 million in mold removal costs and the unforeseen expenses created by Hurricane Sandy, district spending is over budget this year, he said.

“I hate to do this before the holidays, but you have to hear this,” he said. “It’s not a good situation.”

Swartz’s presentation warned of difficult days ahead for the new Board of Education, which will be sworn in Tuesday, Jan. 8. The board will need to make cuts in this year’s operating budget.

“If you do not take immediate steps, you may end up in a deficit before the end of the year,” he said.

“You need to cut back now wherever you can – and do it immediately.”

Because the budget has few areas to cut from other than salaries and personnel, Swartz warned that the board will find it “very difficult to find ways to rein in costs.”

Eight Rice notices were mailed out to district supervisors, including athletic director Derrick Carrington, and those layoffs could take effect by mid-February, Superintendent Garnell Bailey said.

Other layoffs could happen as well.

“In the middle of February when students have bonded with a teacher, that teacher is going to walk out of the room and a new face will walk in,” said Jean Hovey, president of the Pleasantville Education Association.

Andrea Turner, president of the Pleasantville Administrators Association, warned that cuts in administrators would leave the district shorthanded.

“Who will fill the void?” she asked. Of the eight supervisors, six have bumping privileges and would most likely return to the classroom. As a result, six teachers would be let go instead. Two administrators would be unemployed.

Hovey, for example, wondered who would take Carrington’s place in making all of the decisions that are needed to orchestrate the schedules of the school’s many sports teams.

Bailey said she has not made that decision yet.

State-appointed board monitor James Riehman said he had thought the district could affordthe pay raises that were given to some administrators earlier this year.

“But now I will have to closely monitor the situation and make reports to the board.”

He had also said the budget could withstand the mold removal project when the cost was estimated to be around $450,000.

Joanne Famularo voiced her concerns about why Riehman didn’t relay the growing mold removal costs to the board as they swelled past $1 million.

Pleasantville’s problems won’t go away in the 2012-2013 or in 2013-2014 school years, Swartz warned, because of the district’s shrinking reserves.

Pleasantville is likely to receive less state aid on top of an expected decrease of millions of dollars in federal aid.

Combined with the state’s 2 percent cap on budget increases, it is likely Pleasantville will have to make more cuts in future years, he said.

Meanwhile, the district’s need to fund a project to vent methane gas from a landfill underneath the high school and the middle school could further undermine its financial position, Swartz said.

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