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Schools Closed, Money Saved

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 12:22

While schools statewide are closed because of Covid-19, their employees — teachers, aides, custodians, bus drivers, regular part-timers, and all others are still being paid, under a recent executive order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

But many schools are saving money in other areas.

Sports coaches, club advisors, lunch monitors, substitute teachers, bus driver and custodial overtime, canceled professional development sessions, fuel for the buses, and utilities for the buildings are examples of areas in which districts are seeing thousands of dollars in savings.

“Any savings . . . would theoretically increase the amount of money you have in fund balance at the end of the year,” Jeff Nichols, the Sag Harbor interim superintendent, said, referring to surplus money that can, if districts so choose, be used to offset the tax levy in the following year’s budget.

Robert Hauser, the superintendent of the Bridgehampton School, said his district may see as much as a $25,000 savings on substitute teacher costs, plus savings on electricity and some club adviser stipends, but noted that savings are not universal across the districts and that the governor is eyeing cuts to state aid. “On the net, I don’t know if anyone’s really going to come out too far ahead,” Mr. Hauser said. “I think the governor is aware of these items. He knows districts are not spending money on certain areas so they should have extra money, which could justify a reduction in state aid.”

Any little bit of surplus goes a long way in districts like Springs, which had already been planning to cut some teaching jobs even before the onset of Covid-19. Debra Winter, the Springs School superintendent, wrote to Senator Charles Schumer last week lobbying for federal money for schools, just weeks after the New York State Legislature approved a budget that will give the governor the ability to reduce state aid in many cases.

“I am deeply concerned about our students, their families, and the impact of this crisis on my district and community.” Ms. Winter wrote. “Districts like Springs rely on state aid, and we know that the only thing preventing massive cuts is a federal infusion of dollars to support our state.”


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