The Massapequa School District is eliminating 29 teaching positions as part of their proposed 2012-13 school budget.
District Superintendent Charles Sulc made the announcement at Thursday's Board of Education meeting, which covered the instructional side of the spending plan.
The 29 positions represent four percent of the district's teachers and will represent a savings of almost $2.2 million, according to Sulc.
But it was far from an easy decision, according to the superintendent.
"Change is difficult, we've had some of the finest staff members anywhere, and we don't want to lose anything," he said.
At least nine of the positions eliminated will be offset by retirements, after the district offered retirement incentives but the cuts will likely result in some district teachers changing buildings where they may be needed. For the most part teachers lost their jobs based on seniority.
The district is still determining how each school building will be affected by the layoffs.
In addition to the teacher cuts, the superintendent also announced an administrative reorganization that resulted in the elimination of three positions at a savings of about $421,000. The district is eliminating four department chairpersons and the Director of Academic and College/Career Planning, while adding a new dean and an Executive Assistant.
The four department chairs will no longer be administrators, but will return to teaching, Sulc said. Two clerical positions, three custodial and transportation positions and 25 paraprofessional positions were also eliminated, Sulc said.
The net savings to the district will be $3,977,549, Sulc said. Officials have said that Massapequa's budget shortfall will be at around $4-5 million.
Sulc maintained that the job cuts were necessary because of the new state tax cap law, emphasizing that similar budget woes caused by the cap were afflicting districts throughout Long Island.
Officials argued that the Massapequa District does not receive its fair share of state aid in comparison with poorer districts, while suburban districts receive less in the way of funds compared to others in the state.
They also said that pension costs and the lack of meaningful mandate relief are also contributing to costs. They've expressed concerns that costs related to the shift of handling tax certiorari refunds from Nassau County to individual school districts will cost an estimated $1.4 million, while the district could lose a revenue stream if an agreement to rent the Carmans Road School to Nassau BOCES is not renewed.
The district had no alternative but to make the cuts, according to Sulc.
"We're losing wonderful, wonderful people," he said. "We're trying to be sensitive to everybody, but we have to make the reductions and the vast majority of the budget is for personnel."
The cuts also frustrated many of those who packed the auditorium inside Massapequa High School.
"What do we do as parents beyond standing here and screaming like lunatics to show our objection to this [tax cap] law?" the mother of two Unqua students asked the school board. "What other alternatives are there? Who do we speak to? Who do we write to? I understand cuts have to be made, but it's a horror. It's absolutely heartbreaking."
School officials said that state legislators have told them that the response they've received from their constituents has been strongly in favor of the tax cap.
The cap is also not popular with the teachers union.
"It's very difficult seeing our colleagues losing their jobs for the sake of the cap," said Tomia Smith, the president of the Massapequa Federation of Teachers. "We're worried about what's happening all over the Island."
The proposed $183 million budget contains a 2.2 percent tax increase, which is the maximum the district is allowed to pay under the tax cap law.