Budget Gap May Force School Closures in Dix Hills

Parents in a Long Island school district say they're stunned to learn that their local schools could close in spite of high property taxes that were supposed to be funding them. 

More than 1,000 parents packed a meeting in Dix Hills in Suffolk County on Monday night to learn more about the fiscal problems the Half Hollow school district is facing. 

Sharon Sheinker pays high property taxes in part because of the quality of the schools. She was surprised to get a letter saying her local school -- or another one in the district -- may soon close because the district is facing a multi-million dollar budget gap.

The district's budget is $222 million.

"It's only for the schools that our houses are more expensive," she said. "I could live 10 minutes from here and save hundreds of thousands of dollars on my house. It's all about the school district and what it offers."

School officials said they were "in difficult budgetary times," and revealed some possible budget plans to solve the money problems, which include:

- Closing Chestnut Hill Elementary School, which could save $1 million
- Closing Half Hollow Hills High School West, which could save $5 million
- Reducing full-day kindergarten to half-day, which could save $1 million
- Getting rid of all elementary band, chorus and orchestra programs, which could save $500,000

The alternative to the school closures and program cuts is raising taxes by 8.5 percent. 

Parent Josephine Pizzurro said taxes have been high enough. 

"Where'd the money go?" she asked. "We should really look into where the money went. To hear that our district is gonna close schools? Not acceptable." 

At the meeting Monday, hundreds of parents wrote questions on index cards, and many had suggestions, like cutting teacher salaries. 

The administration is conducting an online survey from Jan. 8 to Jan. 18 for more suggestions. They'll collect all the responses and present the findings at the end of January. 

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