Saranac Lake High School
Saranac Lake Central School Board members recently began taking a hard look at their 2012-13 spending plan under the new state-mandated tax levy cap and are faced with a $1.4 million revenue shortfall.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Dan Bower gave board members an updated budget preparation worksheet during their March 7 meeting, outlining the state’s allowable maximum tax levy increase with a simple majority vote of at least 50 percent. That number is $392,693, above the current tax levy of $18,295,387.
Voters can override any amount above that on May 15, but they would need a supermajority of at least 60 percent.
At this stage in the budget process, there is an estimated $26,556,386 in revenue and $28,394,257 in expenses for 2012-13, requiring a tax levy increase of $1,837,871. By subtracting the allowable tax levy increase — $392,693 — school officials are left with a $1,445,178 revenue shortfall.
The allowable increase represents a jump of 2.146-percent, which is determined using the state’s tax cap formula, which is based at 2-percent and then considers exemptions and other factors when determining the cap total.
The school has to find a combination of cuts and added revenue to make up that amount.
While School Board members did not discuss any cuts at their March 7 meeting, Bower offered a few ways the district can achieve $543,000 in savings:
•lower health insurance rates, $263,000;
•UPK mid-day transportation, $70,000;
•field trips, $20,000;
•music teacher retirement, $50,000;
•garage restructuring, $50,000;
•business office clerical reduction, $35,000;
•indoor track cut, $9,000;
•in-house projects, $30,000;
•and facilities subs, $16,000.
Bower also suggested using an additional $200,000 from the fund balance (revenue previously saved for emergency situations). If all his suggestions were adopted, that would still leave a shortfall of $702,178 for the School Board to cut.
Vermontville resident Shir Filler made a plea to School Board members March 7 to reinstate a full-time librarian at the Bloomingdale Elementary School, where her child attends classes. Right now the school has a part-time librarian.
“Information literacy can make the difference in a student’s success in college and in the workforce, and librarians are information experts,” Filler said. “As an English instructor at North Country Community College, I see every day the results of reducing schooling to reading and math worksheets, with no opportunity for authentic inquiry.”
Many colleges only require one semester of English composition, and Filler asserted that this is not enough to catch many up to the college level.
“Often this means that students fail class, and too often that means they drop out of college,” Filler said. “Starting in elementary school with information and technological literacy — taught by a good librarian — could change this scenario.”
School Board members did not respond to Filler’s request. They were set to meet again March 21 to further discuss the budget.