The Northeastern Clinton Central School District board of education mulled possible ways of saving money at their Aug. 2 meeting.
The discussion was partly prompted by the new, statewide, 2 percent property tax cap, according to board president Daniel Letourneau.
“This is a monumental hill to climb,” Letourneau said. “Our expenses are increasing and our revenue is decreasing seriously. Talk about a perfect storm.”
Board vice president Linda Gonyo-Horne said the district might consider the example of the Newcomb Central School, a small institution which cannot be centralized due to its remoteness.
“They opened their school up to international students,” Gonyo-Horne said, adding Newcomb benefitted from tuition and cultural exchange. “The program has been so successful that they’re now talking about building a dorm on campus.”
Letourneau said the board should explore the idea of privatizing the school bus service, an option the body has investigated in the past.
“Instead of the school paying all this, have a private company come in and run the buses,” Letourneau said. “They take care of their own employees. They take care of everything else.”
District Superintendent Peter J. Turner said he didn’t want the search for savings to descend to finger-pointing among school employees.
“One thing I think is important, when you go to those different sub-groups, is to ask them for cost-saving ideas within their own bargaining unit,” Turner said. “Because what you really don’t want to have is one bargaining unit attacking another.”
Letourneau said he wanted to know whether there would be a reduction in employees or gas expense by putting high school and elementary children on the same school bus, as it has been on the past.
Also, Letourneau said he wanted the board to consider returning to a centralized bus pick-up on each block. Buses currently pick up students at their individual homes.
Additionally, Letourneau said he wanted to know whether the district might be able to, with the children’s safety taken into account, transport fewer students in accordance with a state education busing law.
The district doesn’t have to bus anyone in grades K-5 who lives under two miles away, Letourneau said. Similarly, the district doesn’t have to bus anyone in grades 6-12 who lives less than three miles away.
“Regardless of what the law says, the safety of the students is paramount,” Letourneau said. “I don’t think anyone’s comfortable with having somebody walking on roads leading to the [Champlain] school.”
In contrast, in Rouses Points and Mooers, which are home to district elementary schools, there are sidewalks and crossing guards which make for a safer walking route, Letourneau said.
Board member Tammy Gonyo said the district doing more of its work digitally would save money.
Board member Lynn Grovine said the district might consider sharing services, such as busing, with other districts.
“Down the road that’s another option that we could possibly look into,” Grovine said. “I think that’s going to be the trend.”
Letourneau said he thought many would misunderstand sharing services to mean consolidation.
“It’s not,” Letourneau said. “It’s mutually beneficial.”