BOLTON LANDING - Unlike most school systems in the region, the Bolton Central School District won't be firing teachers, dipping into reserves or cutting programs to balance their budget for 2010-2011.
Superintendent of Schools Raymond Ciccarelli said Monday that savvy financial planning two years ago by the school board was responsible for helping the district avoid financial pain this year as it prepared a budget that calls for an increase of under 1 percent and preserves raises of 3.9 percent - including "step" or longevity increases.
The board took action in 2008 and developed a five-year plan to minimize budget increases and enact cuts not only in light of a failing economy, but as a response to the school system's falling enrollment, he said.
April 19, the Bolton Central School District Board of Education approved the 2010-11 budget which calls for expenditures of $8.32 million, an increase of $31,500 from the present year - a 0.38 percent increase - while state aid is projected to decrease by $107,000. Based on these figures, the tax levy is expected to increase this fall by 0.71 percent, he said, to $7.12 per $1,000 of assessed valuation - up from $7.07 in 2009-10.
In that multi-year plan, the board and administration were able to negotiate with the local teachers union the elimination of optional health care plans and the adoption of one offering for employees. Retirees were phased into this single plan this year for a savings of $120,000, he said.
Additionally, the school board decided to retire its bonds and loans borrowed to bankroll its bus fleet when interest rates started creeping up this year. This action will save the taxpayers about $55,000 he estimated.
Another factor has been upgrades the past several years in the school's energy efficiency, which have lowered utility costs.
Lastly, the board has cut several positions in light of the declining enrollment, but those cuts have to date been by attrition without layoffs, Ciccarelli said.
This coming year, several more positions will likely be cut, hopefully by retirements, he said, but these cuts may, unlike in the past, include a termination.
The reduced debt has not only saved taxpayers, but it resulted in a bond rating that was just boosted on Friday by rating agency Standard & Poor's, he said.
"Our credit rating just went up two notches, because our audit showed low debt service and minimal obligatory costs," he said. "It's nice to have it reinforced by an outside agency that we're doing the best we can."