In response to pressure from the community outcry against rising taxes, the board of education has worked hard to cut spending wherever possible. According to Finance Committee Chair and School Board member Rob Seiden, the board and administration has not only cut to the bone, "we've cut into the bone," he said adamantly. "It's a most difficult year."
The board of education made the cuts with an eye to reducing items and personnel that will be least disruptive to the educational mission of the district. The first round of cuts from the original proposed budget figure of $103,939,269 announced on March 2, reduced that figure $923,000. These cuts were as follows:
* custodial overtime-$50,000
* print shop equipment-$45,000
* furniture-all schools- $50,000
* anticipated retirement savings-$250,000
* workers compensation-$328,000
Then, at the March 30 budget workshop, an additional $2,194,900 in reductions was proposed. These cuts were as follows:
* high school assistant principal- $121,500
* director of creative arts- $100,000
* planning for 18 rather than 19 kindergarten sections (not replacing one teacher due to retire)
* educational assistants (cut 10)-$299,200
* supplies-all buildings- $103,400
* technology position-$91,000
* reduction of number of clubs/advisors $341,000
* elimination of three late buses (two will be left)-$9,000
* retiree health insurance reserve- $1,000,000
Note: all figures include value of employee benefits.
The March 30 cuts, coupled with the March 16th ones, total $3,117,900.
As of now, the budget increase is 9.62 percent, or $8,846,169. The board pointed out that of this amount, $544,323 is library debt and these dollars come out of library revenue; and $2,752,285 is bond debt.
If one subtracts these two figures from the increase, the amount is $5,549,561. Therefore, the percentage of increase in the operating budget is actually 6.03 percent, the board advises.
The board also reported that budgeting for new positions requested by the various buildings, though not included in the original proposed budget, will not be granted this year. These include teacher positions ($1,485,000), clubs ($32,000), clerical ($96,000) and custodial cleaners ($86,300).
The board was careful to note that the positions being cut are considered as being deferred, as opposed to eliminated. The high school assistant principal being "deferred" will be moved down to the middle school (grades 6-8) and replace Chris Shields who has been appointed principal of the Salem School.
When asked who will carry out the functions of the staff who are being cut, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Geoff Gordon replied that the work will be spread among the remaining staff. In the case of the director of creative arts, small stipends will be developed. "They're not easy cuts, Dr. Gordon said. He mentioned that the school newspaper, the award-winning Schreiber Times, will be kept.
One addition to the budget was made. The original proposed budget contained no money for capital improvements. However, at the March 30 workshop, the board directed administration to include a capital improvement line, $250,000 to start the roof repairs.
School Board member Mark Marcellus stated his concern that the board must propose a budget that the community is willing to support. "This is part of our job," he said. Other board members agree.
Should the budget be voted down, the district would be subject to a contingency budget, which means that $3.5 million of the $5.5 million increase will have to be eliminated. (Note: the bond debt of $2,275,285 and library debt of $544,323 are not considered part of the operating expenses of the budget, and cannot be eliminated or reduced in any way as part of a contingency budget.)
An extra work session was added for Thursday, April 15, at Weber Middle School in the auditorium at 8 p.m.