Berlin School District parents speak out against proposed layoffs

More concerns about Berlin budget gap

More concerns about Berlin budget gap.

Parents spoke out Tuesday evening against the Berlin Central School District’s proposal to cut 16 staff positions in order to close a huge budget deficit.

They packed the Berlin Middle-High School cafeteria on Tuesday night to express their concern that teaching positions would be on the chopping block.

The district is facing a budget gap of $5.4 million between expenses and revenue.

One issue is a proposed cut of $1.2 million in state aid. However, other issues contributing to the problem are increased costs and expiration of COVID relief aid that was used to fund programs.

Among the positions on the chopping block are mental health positions, a music teacher, reading specialist, school resource officer and counselor.

The district has gone through some administrative turnover. Former Superintendent Aditja Joseph Dhara abruptly resigned from his position in November. The board approved a separation agreement with him at its Nov. 9 meeting.

Dr. Maureen Long was appointed as interim superintendent.

In late August, then middle-high school principal Kim Brownell resigned and School Business Official Christopher Pallozzi resigned.

Parent Richard Lenyk said he is concerned about the district’s financial issues.

A state audit criticized the district for an employee misplacing a $1 million check from Albany County for payment of taxes. The county cut a new check.

Another issue was the district used credit cards to purchase various items, but did not use purchase orders, so there was no control over the operations. The district required employees to turn in all credits to the treasurer and use the purchasing process to place orders.

Long said those issues have not contributed to the current problem.

Lenyk said his 14-year-old son is upset about the potential loss of staff members.

“He shouldn’t be coming home that upset and ‘saying I’m not going to see these people,’” he said.

The district plans to meet again after Easter to continue its budget talks.