WARRENSBURG - The process of crafting a more thrifty school district budget gathered momentum this week as the Warrensburg Central School Board members revealed they were researching dozens of ways to trim expenses in the local schools, a few dollars at a time.
Their preliminary cost-cutting proposals, which now total an estimated $233,000, include unplugging a cable television in the school district bus garage, yanking pay phones from the schools and reducing frequency of trash pickup.
Monday, Warrensburg School District Business Manager Kevin Polunci told board members that State Aid would likely decrease $356,847 for the 2009-10 school year from its present $19.5 million spending plan.
Board members have talked in recent weeks of cutting costs up to 10 percent - or maintain a zero local property tax increase, and they've suggested reopening the teacher's union contract to reduce pending pay increases or shift a percentage of the rising cost of benefits to the teachers.
Instructional costs are now $10.5 million annually in the school district.
Tax savings of personnel cost reductions would likely be a hefty amount - and negotiations with the Warrensburg Teachers Association to reopen the contract are still pending. But meanwhile, progress has been made on dozens of little expenses that will likely make a difference, school officials said.
Monday, Board Budget Committee Chair Linda Marcella said her panel was actively researching cost-cutting measures, and had already come up with potential ways to save the taxpayers $233,000 by examining expenses, item by item, in several aspects of the district's operation.
The school district could save about $2,500 by scrapping their postage meter and save up to $10,000 per year by hiring Mailings Made Easy to handle bulk mailing chores, Marcella said.
A change in trash removal from five days per week to four at the elementary school has now been enacted on a trial basis, and it may save $3,000 per year, she said.
The district's present $8,000 in annual off-site staff professional development costs, might be reduced, Marcella said.
A $10,000 contract with the Hudson Headwaters Health Network to provide an unspecified number of student physical exams might be renegotiated lower, as HHHN conducts an average of 350 student physicals annually, she said.
About $2,500 per year could be saved by eliminating pay phones at the schools - but state education policy specifies that the district needs to provide telephone service for the public, she said.
An annual payment of $5,000 to Richards Library, said to underwrite visits by kindergartners, is also under scrutiny, she said.
Also, the cable bill at the district bus garage could be reduced by nearly $1,000 - or over half - if one television in the employee's break room is disconnected, she said. The proposed change would retain the connection to the bus garage office, where the transportation supervisor monitors weather conditions on television and coordinates bus routes on the Internet, Polunci said.
Marcella said the board's budget committee had expressed its intent to cut unnecessary costs while maintaining core academics.
Union President Marc Mularz said he was pleased with the spirit of cooperation between the board and the way they were approaching budget concerns.
Mularz aired a complaint, however, that a school board member had posted negative comments on an Internet media blog which he said undermined teachers' morale.
The subject of reopening union negotiations, which had been listed on an earlier draft of the agenda for Monday's meeting, was not discussed Monday in executive session.
Appointed to serve on the Citizen's Advisory Committee for the 2009-10 budget process were Sheila Mender, Janice Merrithew, Elaine Cowin, Lee Von Hatten, Terri McGuire - all of Warrensburg - and Beth Callahan of Diamond Point.