Written by Emily Cappiello Friday, 22 March 2013 00:00
Island Trees School District started the budget process on Wednesday, February 27 at the first of a series of budget meetings. Each school principal had the opportunity to present their budgets, all down from previous years, while the board had a chance to ask questions and make cuts.
However, a new tech program started at the high school level last year, as well as some questionable budget allotments, put Nick Grande, high school principal, in the hot seat.
Last year, the high school began offering a new tech course, and Grande explained that it did not take the place of another course; the school just had less children in other sections. Patricia Mahon, school board president, said that she – and the rest of the board – were not made aware of the new program and was not happy about it.
“We are doing budget cuts,” she said. “If we are creating a new subject area, I know I would like to know about it, as would the rest of the board.”
In addition, agenda pads for high school freshman got cut as well as money for departmental meetings. “If they want to supply cookies and snacks for their departmental meetings, tell them to reach into their pockets,” Mahon said.
The budgets for the other schools went a little more smoothly with very little suggestions of cuts. “If we are operating within a 2 percent tax cap as a board, we are hoping that everyone is keeping their costs flat or a little below last year,” said Mahon.
However, Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy explained that the pension situation is a balloon and he is hopeful that the Governor will find a way to handle it. “With 2016 coming up fast, I am sure that by the end, they will find some relief with the pension situation,” he said, inferring that the Governor will want to run for President of the United States and will want to be able to have something to show the rest of the country.
The district also discussed how planning for last year ended up saving the district additional headaches and costs in the end, with BOCES having to return money to the district as well as the County Guaranty not going through. “Because we budgeted for the County Guaranty, we now have a little cushion,” Murphy said.
Before the meeting adjourned, however, a concerned parent brought a circulating rumor to the board about a school building being sold. “We’re selling a building, that’s the rumor that is going around. Is that true? Are we really selling a building?,” she asked.
“Anything is a possibility,” replied Murphy, who explained that BOCES will be returning a building to them at the end of this year and that the district will need to look for other sources of income for that building.
“But, what if it is partitioned and rented for different things. I know in business that you never want to lose property, so doesn’t it make sense to keep the building?,” she replied.
Murphy cited that enrollment has been steadily decreasing during the past 17 years and there is really no reason to keep a building that will most likely continue to remain vacant. “Like I said,” he explained, “Anything is a possibility.”