Superintendent John Hogan, along with the rest of the West Hempstead School District, has spent the last five months preparing for what has been described as a "difficult year."
Hogan said he expects the proposed expenditure budget to be approximately $55.6 million, which will represent less than a 1 percent increase over last year.
"We had a sense that retirement costs were going to go up significantly and we certainly knew that our contract with the teacher's union would be coming to an expiration date this June, so we knew that we would have some expenses there as we move into the next school year," Hogan told Patch.
"You're really planning for almost two years down the road, so you're trying to estimate what costs are going to be somewhat 'in the blind' because you're projecting so far out," he added.
After seeing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's state budget -- along with a combination of costs that nobody had any control over -- Hogan said it became clear that it was going to leave the district in a budget hole of about $2.5 million, which the superintendent said "is a significant amount of money to make up."
The school district met with the community in a "budget cafe" format in late January to discuss several of the scenarios to close the $2.5 million gap.
The first cuts came from examining each budget line to see if any savings were available.
"We did identify some areas where we thought we had some savings, for example in health care costs, and we thought that there might again by some savings in the transportation lines," Hogan said.
After speaking with the community again, the district came up with multiple ideas to close the remaining gap.
"One of those items was to pierce through the cap, to try to raise extra revenue to offset costs," Hogan said, though that idea will not be presented to the board.
Another consideration was closing Chestnut Street School, however, Hogan said the idea was not a viable solution due to a lack of space at other schools.
Next on the list was the eight-period day, which ultimately was the decision made by the district.
"We realized within the eight-period day, we might [see] a savings of anywhere from $900,000 to $1 million because over eight periods you're not going to have as many offerings as you would over nine periods and the savings there, unfortunately, is frankly in staff. Of course that impacts program, but we have to get to a balanced budget," Hogan said.
The eight-period day, which will go into effect in the fall of 2013, was originally going to cut anywhere from 12-15 positions. However, state aid will allow several of those positions to remain in the district.
Deputy Superintendent Richard Cunningham said that with eight periods, a total of 25 minutes will be added to all classes throughout the day and most elective courses will remain available to students on a "rotating schedule."
"Some electives we're going to put on an alternating or four-year cycle, so you still have access to them, but they might not be offered every year," Cunningham said.
The West Hempstead Board of Education is holding a budget workshop on April 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school video conference room.
The proposed budget will be adopted at the April 16 board of education meeting. Residents will have the opportunity to vote on the budget from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on May 21 in the middle school gym.
Stay tuned for part II of Patch's discussion with West Hempstead Superintendent John Hogan, which will post April 11 at 6 a.m.