Saranac Lake High School
Members of the Saranac Lake Central School Board of Education adopted their proposed 2012-13 spending plan Aug. 17, in part by eliminating several teaching positions through attrition in order to stay under the state tax cap.
After a slide show presentation about the budget by Assistant Superintendent for Business Dan Bower, board members had time for questions. And school Superintendent Gerald Goldman was straightforward about the challenges they faced to stay within the tax levy increase allowed by New York state.
“You can see the numbers up there,” Goldman said. “We are caught in an unrelenting barrage of bad news here when it comes to revenue ... we’re shrinking.”
Expenses for 2012-13 would be $28,394,257, and revenue is expected at $26,897,423. That’s a budget gap of $1,496,834.
With a proposed tax levy increase of $389,834 or 2.13 percent, the district barely stayed within the maximum allowable tax levy increase of $392,377 or 2.14 percent. The current tax levy is $18,295,387, and the proposed tax levy is $18,685,221.
The district will get $7,287,036 in state aid next year, down $322,079 or 4.23 percent from 2011-12. The board will use $1 million of its fund balance and get $315,000 in “other revenue.”
There are a number of ways the district plans to save $1.107 million to help close the $1.49 million budget gap, including:
•reduced health insurance costs and budgeted contributions ($363,000);
•not replacing a music teacher who is leaving ($50,000);
•not replacing an elementary school art teacher who is leaving ($50,000);
•not replacing a foreign language teacher who is leaving ($60,000);
•not replacing a high school science teacher who is leaving ($40,000);
•not replacing an elementary school teacher who is leaving ($50,000);
•not replacing a home and careers teacher who is leaving ($50,000)
•not replacing three teacher assistants who are leaving ($54,000);
•restructuring the bus garage staff after a retirement ($50,000);
•not replacing one district office clerical position ($35,000);
•reducing substitute teachers ($16,000);
•providing substance abuse prevention in-house ($46,000);
•making food service transfer reductions ($10,000);
•cutting the indoor track program ($9,000);
•revising the special education budget ($145,000);
•reducing in-house projects already budgeted ($50,000);
•and making additional payroll savings in the middle school ($9,000).
The district was originally going to cut the field trip budget by $20,000, but School Board member Esther Arlan was opposed to the idea.
“Many of our young people cannot get to museums, and their families can’t afford to drive to Albany or Burlington,” Arlan said. “It’s critical that we look at this ... field trips are educational, and I think they are important.”
In the end, board members decided that they would restore some of that field trip money and find savings elsewhere, according to Bower.
Arlan also asked about the Bloomingdale Elementary School librarian’s position, which was cut to part-time in the 2011-12 budget. At least one parent had asked the board publicly to restore the position to full-time.
Superintendent Goldman said there are currently three librarians in the school district: one full-time at the high school, one full-time at the middle school, and one full-time person who works at the Petrova and Bloomingdale elementary schools. Plus there are teaching assistants and aides in all the libraries.
“I think this has been a series of difficult choices, and I know that in a perfect world, we would love to have a full-time librarian in every one of our schools,” Goldman said. “But if you tell me you want to put a full-time librarian back at Bloomingdale, I’m going to say to you, ‘Tell me where I’m going to find the $50,000.’ If it sounds harsh, it’s the reality that I’m dealing with and that all the administrators are dealing with.”
Goldman added that the district is not reducing any services with the 2012-13 budget.
Arlan also questioned the decision to cut a music teacher.
“We have a wonderful music program,” Arlan said. “We’re proud of what we do in the arts.”
Goldman said the opportunity to cut the music position came with the teacher’s retirement, and there wasn’t any need to lay anyone off.
“In last year’s budget, the school administrators felt like if we needed to crunch the numbers, we could probably get by with one less music teacher,” Goldman said.
There will be five music teachers in the school district next year.
“I still think that we are going to maintain a high quality music program,” Goldman said. “Yeh, we’re going to have to scramble a little bit more next year to do what we’ve done this year, and I’m not going to sugar coat this and say that in each and every instance we’re going to be just as good next year in every single thing.”
By cutting one art teacher through attrition, there will be full-time art teachers in the middle school and high school and the two elementary schools will share a teacher.
•May 1: Budget booklets and required attachments distributed
•May 8: Public hearing on the budget
•May 9: Deadline for mailing “budget notice” (six days before vote)
•May 15: Annual budget vote and School Board election