Community parents whose children attend St. Anthony's in South Huntington or McGann-Mercy in Riverhead can breathe easier today after the Sachem Board of Education decided against further pursuing the possibility of cutting their transportation.
In a nearly unanimous up and down vote, the board determined that the potential savings was not guaranteed enough to make it fiscally worthwhile, or to weather the criticism from parents if they decided to reduce the mileage offered by the school from 25 to 15.
Last month, district officials drew the ire of many parents who turned out in droves to voice their displeasure with a letter they received from Associate Superintendent Bruce Singer stating that the board was considering scaling back its transportation in an effort to fill what was then a $20 million budget shortfall. That gap has since grown to $22 million after state aid figures indicated that Albany plans to withdraw $2 million in aid to the district next year.
The decision to squash the transportation initiative was basically three fold.
- The projected $160,000 in savings was really only about half that amount, given the fact that the state provides roughly 50% in aid for student transportation.
- With the board still considering the possibility of closing some district buildings, the additional routes that would be needed to bus students further away from home could potentially offset any savings the reduced mileage would bring.
- The potential savings from the reduced mileage is based on the premise that parents would return their students to Sachem, as opposed to re-enrolling them in a private school within the new mileage limit. If parents decided to keep their children in private schools nearer to the district, the savings would not be realized. Board member Teri Ahearn noted that in all likelihood, parents would still enroll their children in a private or parochial school if transportation to further schools were cut.
For those reasons the board decided to nix the plan. Only Michael Isernia voted in favor of continuing the inquiry. Board member Christine Lampitelli was absent at last night's meeting.
At the last Board of Education work session the board also decided against pursuing the sale of 245 Union Avenue as a means of generating revenue.