Montauk Budget Is Set

    The Montauk School Board approved a proposed 2011-12 district budget of $18.1 million on Tuesday, a 1.9-percent increase over this year’s spending. The budget, if passed by voters on May 17, will bring a tax-rate increase of 2.55 percent.
    The amount was $161,800 higher than the number discussed at a workshop last week, due in part to the need for the district to budget for three students who require special services. One, who attends the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, has just moved into the district. “We are now responsible for that child,” Jack Perna, the school’s superintendent, explained. The board and administration discussed trying to help the child make the transition into the Montauk School and offering on-site educational services in an effort to reduce costs while also providing the services the child requires.
    The other two children attend the Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset. A recent state mandate requires the district to budget $75,000 each for students attending the Cleary School. Although the district will be reimbursed, “in order to spend it we have to budget for it,” Mr. Perna said.
    Cuts in other areas, helped to offset the increases.
    In other school news, Jaime Balsam, the school’s social worker, was granted tenure. “She is one of the best employees we have. She is good with the kids and good with the families. It was a good move when we hired her,” Mr. Perna said.
    Patti Leber, a board member, raised the subject of incorporating fun activities into the daily curriculum, saying that she has been concerned about too much testing and has found that kids don’t seem to have an interest in learning. She would like to start a program that would introduce the students to other activities with members of the community. “The idea is to get them excited about things. The teachers could maybe share their hobbies. I see it as a form of enrichment,” she said.
    Mr. Perna said that a barely used nature trail is just feet from the school’s playground area and suggested that students could be split into sections and each given a part of the trail to study and learn about. It was also mentioned that a vegetable garden and on-site nature trail are in the works and could be used