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Sullivan West grapples with weather, budget challenges; Spring musical to offer affordable family package

By Linda Drollinger
February 26, 2014

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — The February 18 Sullivan West Central School District (SWCSD) Board of Education meeting drew only a handful of faculty and administration officials as observers, public attendance undoubtedly discouraged by dicey weather and road conditions, confusion over the rescheduling, and assumption that the meeting cancellation would naturally follow the day’s weather-related school closure. However, sparse attendance did not put a damper on the lively budget work session that preceded the board meeting and ran long as board members weighed their hopes, dreams, fears, and concerns against budgetary realities.

District Superintendent Dr. Nancy M. Hackett addressed the two overriding challenges of the moment: the unusually high number of snow days used thus far this school year and a budget unnaturally constrained by the Albany-imposed gap elimination adjustment. In plain language Hackett described both situations.

The district has already used all allocated snow days. Hackett requested that March 14 and 17 be re-designated as student school days. March 14 had been a Superintendent’s Conference Day and March 17 had been an extended weekend closure day. The board unanimously approved her request and offered its own suggestions for adding snow day flexibility into the district calendar this year and next. One proposal was to return the day before Thanksgiving to a student school day. Another was to remain open on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

The gap elimination adjustment (GEA), as Hackett explained it, was conceived as a stopgap solution to the state’s inability to meet its financial obligations. The state “borrowed” school funding monies to pay its most pressing debts. Never intended to be a permanent fix, the GEA has now been in place for years. When Gov. Cuomo signaled the state’s return to solvency with his recent claim that the state now has a surplus in its budget, Hackett and other district administrators decided that the time is right to ask for an end to the GEA and request restoration of school funding at pre-GEA levels. Hackett presented a resolution to accomplish that, and the board passed it unanimously. The resolution will now be forwarded to state legislators for appropriate action.

The board’s real estate committee announced that two bids were received for the unused Narrowsburg school building and grounds. Having interviewed both bidders, the committee was prepared to discuss the bids in executive session, after which it expected to make a recommendation regarding sale of the property.