A member of the Lay Budget Committee who did not give her name emphasized at the Committee’s March meeting how important counseling services are for students.
“We’ve had recently — and North Merrick is not unique — the rise of psychiatric disorders in elementary settings,” she said.
Feller said that less counseling for students other than special-needs students, who are legally mandated to receive it, could become the unwelcome reality in the North Merrick schools if cuts to state aid take effect.
“Every youngster who’s mandated for counseling will get counseling,” Feller said. “But I don’t want to pretend that you can do exactly the same with less people. So it may be that some of the non-mandated services that [the schools] provide now just will not be as easily available. There’s no other way to sugarcoat it.”
The cutbacks to school social workers and psychologists would, if carried out, result in a savings of $96,000 to the district.
The Lay Budget Committee’s discussion of these possible cuts came less than a week after a special meeting of the district’s Board of Trustees to consider a range of measures to increase security in the North Merrick schools in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which prompted a nationwide debate about school safety, gun control and mental health screenings.
The board has not yet made a determination about new security measures, but any such options the board chooses would be funded by a $400,000 to $500,000 pool of money the district has left over from past capital projects. Using these funds for security measures would prevent the expenditures from adding to the district’s budget gap.
Feller explained that the $400,000 to $500,000 in leftover capital project funds cannot legally be rededicated to programs other than capital projects.