It’s going to be a tight year financially, said Northeastern Clinton Central School Superintendent Peter Turner.
“I am certainly not very encouraged,” he said of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget proposal.
In fact, most North Country schools seem disillusioned by the state-aid numbers released by the governor, saying they will not even cover cost-of-living increases, let alone provide districts with adequate state aid. Unless something changes, school officials say their only options will be deep and painful cuts in programs, services and personnel.
Northeastern Clinton Central School would receive a 1.47-percent increase, or roughly $170,000 more under Cuomo’s proposal.
“That is not a lot of money,” Turner said. “I just don’t understand the rhyme or reason of how they came up with these numbers.
“That is not a huge increase when you look at health insurance, retirement costs and wages going up. That doesn’t begin to cover our increases.”
The only options left, he said, are cost savings and reductions. The district is already trying to consolidate and eliminate some bus runs.
“It is going to be a painful budget season,” Turner said.
Saranac Central School would receive a 1.45-percent increase in aid.
“It was very disappointing,” said Superintendent Kenneth Cringle. “That will not meet our current needs to maintain our programs.”
Last year when state aid was inadequate districts could turn to federal job funds, but that money has dried up. That leaves difficult decisions for the 2012-13 school year.
“It looks like staffing reductions may be imminent,” Cringle said.
Beekmantown Central School is scheduled to receive 1.87-percent less in state aid.
“That is not comforting news,” said Superintendent Scott Amo. “That means we are talking about making up $200,000 to $300,000 of lost state aid that would have to come out of programs.”
He cannot imagine creating a budget under Cuomo’s proposal without making significant reductions. The property-tax cap, while understandable, he said, makes the process all the more difficult.
Plus, the district is entering into negotiations with an employee group and has inadequate fund balance. All these scenarios create a set of perfect storms, Amo said.
“We are jammed pretty tight.”
Plattsburgh City School’s aid run effectively represents a zero-percent increase.
“That has been the same amount since 2008,” said Superintendent James “Jake” Short.
Yet the district has not been immune increases in health insurance, energy, retirement and more during that time.
The district is used to no increase in aid and expected it under Cuomo’s proposal, but at the same time there had been discussion about new aid for schools.
“You can’t have cost-of-living increases and a limitation both on any form of revenue we get, which is a tax cap, which is understandable, and the state not fully funding mandated programs,” Short said. “This will be another one of those years in which what we didn’t take away before we have to talk about taking away now.
“This will be a painful budget process.”