Suzannah Chatlos voted in support of the Plattsburgh City School budget.
The Plattsburgh City School budget passed by a vote of 952 to 726, but it didn’t come without a price.
More than 56 percent of voters approved the plan that included roughly $1.5 million in cuts, on top of the millions in reductions school officials have already made over the past few years.
The district can move forward now, though the next step this summer includes changing the master scheduled and handing out layoff notices.
“The budget has passed and we are able to move forward and avoid deeper cuts,” said Superintendent James “Jake” Short. “But it didn’t come without sacrifice.”
Over the past few years, Plattsburgh City School officials have cut roughly $6 million in response to rising costs and inadequate state aid. Those reductions have impacted course offerings, at-risk and gifted students, athletics, summer work and more, and have resulted in layoffs in faculty, staff and administration.
The district’s first 2012-13 budget totaled $38.3 million and carried a tax-levy increase of 5.8 percent, which was above the cap of 3.01 percent. Voters defeated that plan 1,365 to 729.
The second budget totaled $37,812,744, which was 1.53 percent lower than the current spending plan. It carried a tax-levy increase of 2.84 percent and called for roughly $1.5 million in reductions, including reduced sub pay rates, education technology, summer curriculum and guidance work, high-school after-school program, field trips, athletics, maintenance and custodial, Odyssey, and dropout prevention. The budget eliminated 15 instructional and 5 support-staff positions in areas such as English, math, social studies, engineering, monitor, groundskeeper, custodial, nursing, teaching assistants.
If this budget had failed, the board would have been forced to adopt a contingency budget, which would have meant no increase in the tax levy and more than half a million dollars more in cuts.
A total of 56.7 percent of voters approved the budget.
“I voted yes,” said Suzannah Chatlos, who was out of town during the first budget vote.
She believes people should exercise their right to vote and is a strong supporter of public education. She attended Plattsburgh City School and directly benefited from some of the programs that were reduced or eliminated.
“I understand we are in a tight place financially, but I didn’t want anything else cut.”
Short felt people defeated the first budget, not necessarily because they do not support the school system, but because they are frustrated with the tax burden. He believes people responded positively to the budget that just passed.
“In the face of natural cost increases and decreased state aid, we had to lower our year-to-year expenditures.”
Unfortunately, it does not appear the financial issues that public schools face will change anytime soon. School officials must remain sensitive to the needs of taxpayers as they move forward, Short said.
The next few years will be equally, or possibly even more difficult. In terms of the budget voters approved and the coming school year, Plattsburgh City School must live within its means, Short stressed.
The district often faces changes, such as a new student moving into the district, sometimes on a monthly basis, and if those changes result in increased costs, Plattsburgh School officials will have to make further reductions.
“Business will not be the same as it has been in the past,” Short said. “Any increase will have to be met with a reduction.”