Indian Lake Central School
Indian Lake Central School District (ILSCD) officials say they were surprised by a recent notification of state aid reductions.
The surprise was mainly due to the governor announcing in his executive budget presentation a 4.4 percent increase in aid to education. That translates into an average increase of more than $300 per student statewide.
That’s not so for Indian Lake or Hamilton County. For ILCSD, the recent school aid run reflected a net loss of $98,577, a decline of 16.18 percent. The surprise was due to the reduction of $109,426 in high tax aid.
In the district’s Feb. 12 meeting, Board President Jon Voorhees and Vice President David Harrington noted that for the past 10 years the district has been able to manage the budget by avoiding an increase in the school tax rate. However, the board was presented with the first draft of the 2013-2014 spending plan, and it reflected a 2.8 percent increase on the bottom line.
Voorhees said this would place the tax levy back to where it was three years ago. According to Harrington, for an Indian Lake property assessed at $250,000, this would translate into about a $120 increase for the year.
Many School Board members have said there may be a slim hope of getting this decline in aid partially or totally rescinded. It was with this belief that letters have been sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Hugh Farley and Assemblyman Marc Butler.
In his letter to Farley, School Superintendent Mark Brand wrote, “When you combine the state aid reductions with the tax levy cap and virtually no mandate relief, we have had to eliminate 4.5 full-time positions at a time when the state education department and Legislature has imposed new requirements (Common Core Standards, APPR, etc.) for student achievement. Honestly, we have been very creative locally and met these challenges. As evidence of our achievement, we were recognized this year both at the state and national level as a ‘School to Watch’ for our middle school academic program. All of our academic progress is now at risk.”
Brand continued in his letter by saying that shifting more of the school costs from the state to the local level and expecting the community to absorb the increase is unrealistic.
“The state must recognize the unique situation we are faced with as a 'frontier school' and provide assistance that will allow our students the educational opportunities they deserve,” Brand wrote.
Board members also discussed getting the community involved with the effort to get the school aid cut rescinded. Therefore, they set a special board meeting on Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the school cafeteria. The purpose is to hold a budget workshop, and the community is invited to attend.
In addition, board members agreed to act upon the decision made at the joint town/school board meeting on Feb. 6 and form teams composed of select members of each board that would call upon community organizations, explain the state aid cuts and effects, then call to action members of the community to reach out to the governor, senators and representatives to call for the school aid cut to be rescinded.
•The board approved the adoption of the means tested senior tax exemption update recently approved by the Town Board.
• It was announced that the school mural project headed by art teacher Lauren Arsenault received a grant of $1,600 from the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts. The grant covers about 50 percent of the projected cost of the project, and the school will be looking to the PTSO and the community to help with volunteers and donations to lessen the impact of the project on this year’s budget. The work on the mural is scheduled to begin the week of June 3.
•Board members approved Chip Farr as Varsity Girls Softball Coach for 2013.
•Superintendent Brand informed the board that the construction project has only one door frame and a punch list of small items to be covered before being fully finalized. Currently, there is $5,300 left in the project’s budget.
The next regular meeting of the School Board will be March 12 at 7 p.m. in the school cafeteria.