Lake Placid High School
Lake Placid Central School Board members will try to stay within the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap limit when drafting their 2012-13 spending plan. Otherwise, it could force them to cut even more from the budget.
As it stands now, school district officials aim to trim about $368,000 to stay under a 2 percent tax levy increase, Superintendent Randy Richards said at the district’s March 13 budget work session. School Board members don’t want to risk a budget vote defeat, which would lead to a mandated contingency budget after failing twice, and that would mean trimming about $500,000.
“It would devastate us,” Richards said.
The proposed 2012-13 budget on March 13 totalled $17,065,097, up $491,405 (2.96 percent) from the current budget of $16,573,692.
And the proposed 2012-13 tax levy totalled $14,354,993, up $615,138 (4.48 percent) from the current tax levy of $13,739,855.
Taxpayers can override a budget that exceeds the district’s allowable tax levy limit, as calculated by the state Education Department, but they have to do it with at least 60 percent of the votes, what is called a supermajority.
Lake Placid school officials said they don’t want to risk falling short of a supermajority, given that only 58 percent of voters (432-314) passed the 2011-12 budget last year, and the tax levy increase was 4 percent.
This is the first year school officials are designing a budget under the tax levy limit imposed by New York state on June 24, 2011, and that has changed the mindset of school officials, according to Business Administrator/Treasurer Leonard Sauers.
“I believe the governor has switched the philosophy on voting on budgets,” Sauers said. “The shift has really gone from passing a budget to you’re really looking to pass the levy.”
The state’s maximum allowable tax levy increase this year — which would be passed by a simple majority of at least 50 percent of voters — is $13,986,936. That means the School Board needs to trim $386,057 from the currently proposed budget.
During their March 13 budget work session, School Board members also listened to budget options from the transportation and sports departments.
Lake Placid Middle-High School Athletic Director Matt Walentuk laid out his expenses for all the sports programs, which cost the district about $250,000 a year for 32 teams on the modified, junior varsity and varsity levels.
“I’m not saying that this has to stay (intact),” Walentuk said, adding that he is willing to look at potential savings and “pinch pennies if that has to be done.”
School Board member and former LPCS superintendent Jerry Blair asked Walentuk what other school districts are doing with their sports programs during the budget process. Other than Beekmantown Central, which has proposed cutting all sports for the 2012-13 year, Walentuk said many districts are discontinuing sports programs with low participation.
As School Board members listened to Walentuk’s presentation, Superintendent Richards reminded them that sports in Lake Placid — the winter sports capital of the world — is not only important to students, it is part of the district’s mission statement.
“This really goes back to school philosophy,” Richards said. “We value participation ... You go right back to those root values.”
School Board members agreed.
The district is guided by a mission to provide “a welcoming, stimulating environment that inspires students to achieve their academic, physical and social potential and to thrive in a dynamic global society.”
Richards noted that 50 percent of Lake Placid’s students in grades 7-12 will participate in sports programs this spring.
School Board members asked Walentuk to see if he could cut his budget by 10 percent.
District Transportation Director Jeff Jacques gave School Board members options to decrease the cost of busing children to and from their homes in Lake Placid and Wilmington.
They considered discontinuing the two buses that bring 75-100 students home at the end of Period 9 (2:01 p.m.). Instead, all students would leave at the end of Period 10 (2:45 p.m.) and ride what is currently known as the “late bus.” That could save the district between $20,000 and $25,000 a year, but it leaves school officials with a problem.
“What do we do as a school for 45 minutes to entertain them?” Blair asked.
Right now, the middle and high school requires all students to leave the building immediately after Period 9 unless they are attending an authorized 10th period activity or staying with a teacher.
“Maybe some of those 100 (students) will get involved,” Blair said.