Saranac Lake Central School was ranked second in the Plattsburgh Region by the Business First newspaper out of Buffalo. Westport was third, followed by Lake Placid.
The Saranac Lake Central School District is dealing with state mandates this school year along with the other Tri-Lakes districts and will incur extra costs attached to these directives, according to school officials.
SLCS Assistant Superintendent for Business Dan Bower said the district is putting in place several state mandates this year, including the Dignity for All Students Act, the Common Core standards, and the state’s new Annual Professional Performance Review Law (teacher evaluations).
“They create extra work and dollars for us to implement, but obviously we’re going to do those. They’re mandates,” Bower said. “It’s hard implementing them all at once both from a financial (standpoint) and just having the resources to get them up and running. To do them right, they take time and planning, and unfortunately, we’re on the state’s timeframe on those things.”
One major mandate is the APPR, and administrators have been negotiating with teachers on the new teacher evaluation guidelines.
“That’s obviously new for all of us, but we’re ready to move forward and meet those requirements,” Bower said.
Each district must have its own APPR plan approved by the state.
When it comes time to shape the budget, the district will see the monetary effects of these mandates. And the federal Race to the Top funds — $54,000 over three years — is not enough to help with the APPR mandates.
“It doesn’t come even close to covering the expense that it’s going to cost us to implement that,” Bower said.
Bower said he hasn’t crunched the numbers yet, but he can see the costs coming close to what Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Randy Richards says it will cost his district: $400,000-$500,000. Bower said he could see the mandates costing the Saranac Lake district between $300,000 and $400,000.
“I talk to the legislators every chance I get about mandate relief,” Bower said.
When the district can’t fund mandates, school officials have to limit the number of students they can serve. For example, Bower said, they have 15 students on a waiting list because the district doesn’t have the additional state funding for Universal Pre-K that it needs to bring in more students. The funding level has remained steady at $137,000 a year for the program since it started in 1998.
Another mandate this year comes from the federal government and will affect students in the lunch room. Ruth Pino recently spoke to the School Board to brief board members on food service for the upcoming year.
“There’s new federal requirements for nutrition guidelines, so we’re fully ready to implement those,” Bower said. “The menu choices are complicated, but Ruth has really done a nice job preparing our district to meet the qualifications for the new food program ... The government’s requiring more fruits, vegetables and legumes, so they’ll see new menus.”
Portion sizes will also be different.
“But Ruth has come up with a plan to make sure that students that want larger portions will still be able to get those,” Bower said.
If there’s one theme at the Saranac Lake schools this year, Bower said it would be “preserve and protect what we have” or “preserving programs with shrinking resources.”
“Everything’s getting tighter,” Bower said. “We don’t want to give up programs that everbody’s proud of here, so we’ll find ways to keep them.”
One way to deal with finances is to share resources with neighboring school districts. For example, the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid school boards will meet Wednesday, Sept. 5 at the Petrova Middle School to discuss the possibility of sharing a new school superintendent. Each district must hire a superintendent by the end of the year, when Saranac Lake’s Gerald Goldman and Lake Placid’s Randy Richards will be leaving their jobs.
Photo: Dan Bower
Saranac Lake Central School Assistant Superintendent for Business Dan Bower talks gives a budget presentation to the School Board in February at the Petrova School library.
Photo by Andy Flynn