TUCKAHOE, N.Y. It was standing room only as teachers, teacher assistants and teacher aides packed the Tuckahoe Board of Education meeting Monday night.
"We have been hearing lots of rumors," said Jennifer Capocci, president of the 70-member CSEA, which represents teacher aides and assistants. "We wanted to come to the meeting tonight to get an idea of what to expect."
Schools Superintendent Edward Reilly told the packed room that in order for the district to stay under the state mandated 2 percent tax cap, the district will have to either make deep cuts, or make fewer cuts and use some of its fund balance.
After making it clear that Monday nights session was merely a discussion and the cuts discussed were just tentative options, Reilly gave the board proposed cuts of 18 staff members, including two teachers. The remaining staff that could potentially be cut would either be teacher aides, who help teachers manage the students and assist the kids with things like packing up homework and cleaning up, or teacher assistants, who can perform those tasks and teach students as well.
Other options for the board to make up $1.16 million would be taking $400,000 from the districts fund balance.
"Then we would still have to make cuts, but the shortfall would be $550,000 instead of over a million dollars," Reilly said.
Board of education President Julio Urbina said that overriding the 2 percent tax cap is not a viable option for the board.
"If we override the tax cap and put up a budget with an 8-10 percent tax increase and it fails, we are mandated by law to keep the same budget we have now, which would require significant cuts that will total between $1 million and $1.5 million.
Although the possible cuts will be made in all three schools, many of the potential cuts come from the special education department.
Anthony DiCarlo, superintendent of special education, asked the crowd not to feel like his department has been targeted and would be the only one to suffer if cuts are made.
"In my heart of hearts, I don't want to let any of you go," DiCarlo said.
But he added that some special needs children who currently have an aide who only assists them, might have to share an aide with another child. More students will be mainstreamed into regular classrooms, and some classes accommodating special needs kids will be restructured so that an aide is not required or the class size could be larger.
Board members said they could also cut modified sports from the middle school to save money or take away two of the districts eight school buses.
The board has until March 19 to finalize and approve a spending plan for the district.
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