Unless the State aid in this year’s proposed budget is changed before April 1st, School Districts across the North Country are going to have difficult decisions to make before their budgets must be adopted and presented for approval to the local communities… And unfortunately, it appears everything must be on the table, including reductions in staff… Diane Fox is Superintendent of the Saranac Lake Central School District… Fox says One elementary teacher is retiring and there are two math teachers who are retiring but in order to provide appropriate math instruction, they need to re-hire for one of those retirements, and then there are two teaching assistants who are retiring this year.. The savings through attrition will be approximately $268,340
Fox continued by saying they do have to look at some teaching reductions, including two K-5 teachers and one Elementary Certified teacher who works in the Middle School, a business teacher, and a technology teacher, and a point two full time equivalent.. Essentially a teacher who teaches one day a week in Bloomingdale.. One Social Studies Teacher in the Middle School, a Foreign Language Teacher for the Middle School / High School and One PE Teacher for the Middle School /High School. One Library Aide, Shared between Bloomingdale and Petrova and ELA and Math Coaches will be Eliminated in the Elementary School.
During her presentation, Fox says the school also has a significant number of teaching assistants in the district.. and they have been looking at how they are used and how to effectively provide student support for the special ed rooms and for the general classrooms.. She believes they may be able to reduce the number by 17.
The Current Year’s Budget is $28,080,442.. Without these changes Business Manager Dan Bower says the numbers would increase to $29,185,445 which is well over the tax cap limitation of 1.8%..
The Current year Tax Levy is $19,371,782 and there is an additional $356,953 available for the district to add while remaining under the tax cap (1.84%) The Executive Proposal for State Aid is $7,546,653 and along with $200,000 in other revenues and long term savings, the total possible revenue is $28,125,388.
It’s important to understand that in order to find more revenue, Members of the State Assembly, The State Senate and the governor must agree to increase state aid to North Country school districts.. The legislature will make their final decisions on April 1st but it’s not too late to contact the governor, or your representatives in Albany and tell them you want more state aid to go to schools..
The budget being proposed to the school board, if adopted, would come in under that tax cap.. but several members of the audience at the budget review, including teachers and their families, suggested that voters might be willing to vote in favor of the budget whether or not it exceeded the tax cap.. One spouse who asked to remain anonymous says the governor is proposing mandates that he doesn’t fund, he makes up rebates that won’t affect the average person that much and yet he expects us to play by the rules and tells us how to educate our kids in our community.. and He continued by telling the board he believes if given the opportunity to allow the people to vote, you may be surprised by what you would get for the outcome… He encouraged the board to go above the budget to see what it would cost the average taxpayer to retain the teaching positions..
The proposal as it stands, without the need for a 60% majority of voters to approve is calculated at $28,123,851, which includes a net salary decrease of $355,596, increased costs of benefits of $42,921, BOCES cost increases of $109,827, legal fees and debt service of $125,905 and increased costs of goods / services of $120,351. Bower says these increased costs include items like fuel and fuel related expenses such as electricity among others.
Staying Under the Tax Cap
School Board President Deb Lennon says there have been fewer questions this year because the budget process has been very clear. “The Board hasn’t needed to ask as many questions because we’ve been reviewing the budget at every board meeting leading up to this one.” Lennon Said, “And while there was a push to consider that concept from the people in the room, I also have to consider the rest of the voters who may not be as comfortable with an amount over the tax cap.”
Terry Turbity is a member of the School board.. He says asking voters for the 60% majority needed to override the tax cap is not as easy as it may sound.. “When people suddenly are asked to vote on a similar budget but a larger majority is needed, things tend to change and it’s not as simple as simply asking residents to approve the increase.”
The Superintendent presented her proposed budget to the School Board during a special Monday evening meeting and the board now has to take a careful look at all of the numbers and will deliberate at two additional sessions prior to adopting a final version of the budget before the April 22nd deadline..