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Residents Speak on Budget at Somers BOE Meeting

SOMERS, N.Y. -- Over 100 concerned residents attended Tuesday evening’s Board of Education meeting to hear the board’s proposals for controlling the coming year’s school budget.

Superintendent Raymond Blanch reminded the audience that there is a $3 million shortfall in the budget and Assistant Superintendent for Business Kenneth Crowley recapped the issues, touching on the 2 percent tax cap and what a tax increase would mean to the overall population of the town.

The board is in favor of staying within the tax cap and making up for the shortfall by whittling spending. Blanch said that this could be accomplished through actions such as reducing staff and combining separate reading and writing classes into a single component.

A reduction of $1,783,138 could be realized by cutting the services of 8.4 teachers, 6.4 teaching assistants, 3.5 custodial staff and 2.5 administrative/secretarial staff.

“Kindergarten class sizes will not be impacted,” Blanch said, nor would the middle or high school classes. “The average intermediate school class might increase from 22-23 students per class to 24-25.”

In a slide presentation, Blanch showed that most schools in the area have combined reading and writing into one class.

“The districts that maintain separate reading and writing classes seem to be the ones where children are typically bilingual,” said Board Vice President Sarena Meyer.

According to Meyer, they are not decreasing the educational enrichment in Somers, to which Blanch had a similar sentiment.

“A different experience doesn’t mean a loss of experience,” Blanch said.

Members of the audience were particularly concerned about a decrease in staff. Rich Dashnaw, the father of a seventh grader, said of the reduction in personnel, “It seems like an exorbitant disparity of people actually interfacing with children on a daily basis. I’d like to see people in the classroom stay. I’d like to see the teaching assistants stay. I’d like to see boots on the ground stay where they are.”

Another parent, Mary Devane, said that adding extra students to a class would have a big impact on how much kids can learn and how much teachers can attend to individual needs, referring to the potential increase in SIS classes.

“Class size matters tremendously. I really think people in Somers want what’s best for their kids and what’s best is not all these cuts,” Devane said.

The next review and update of the proposed budget will take place on March 6.

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