PLATTSBURGH - The budget being put forth by the Plattsburgh City School District has been approved by the district board of education.
If adopted, the spending plan would increase taxes by slightly less than three percent.
The $38,399,039 budget for the 2011-12 school year was approved by the board April 14, and includes a 2.3 percent increase over the current budget of $37,519,424.
Though the budget that will be put before voters next month is up compared to the one for the current school year, district superintendent James "Jake" Short said the figure is the result of careful scrutiny and many hours of weighing options to keep the cost down for taxpayers.
The district utilized $1.9 million from its fund balance and another $479,000 from its reserve fund to offset a "strong reduction" in state aid of $2,438,226 and other increases in the cost of doing business as school district, Short said.
"It clearly is a difficult balancing act," Short said.
The result is a budget that contains a 2.98 percent increase in the tax levy - the total amount to be raised by taxes - from $18,755,740 to $19,314,881.
The budget also contains a tax rate estimated at $21.53 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That would result, for example, in a property valued at $50,000 seeing a school tax bill of approximately $1,076.50.
The current tax rate is $20.96 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Short emphasized the tax rate is only a projected figure.
"That actually can be significantly lower, depending on how assessments come in May," said Short, referring to assessment that will be performed by the county.
The budget eliminates more than two administrative positions, 10 instructional positions and three full-time and three part-time student support staff members.
"The cuts and reductions we did came out of the secondary [school] for the most part because we have lower enrollment courses in the secondary," explained Short. "So, basically, we're right-sizing those enrollments, not sweeping out and cutting programs away from kids ... It's painful, but appropriate management."
Short and Jay C. Lebrun, the district's assistant superintendent of business affairs, are also taking a self-imposed salary freeze, Short noted, adding the Plattsburgh Teachers Association followed suit with as well.
"The membership agreed to alter their contract," Short said, adding the district expects to see a $430,000 savings over the next two years. "And, it's money that never needs to be paid back or reinstated in any way. It definitely made a huge bit of the difference."
Short thanked the teachers for agreeing to the measure, which he said will help keep critical programs in place for the district's students.
"The teachers fully recognize that and they want to be part of the solution," Short said. "They live in the community, they're part of the community they have kids in our schools."
The budget will allow for the continuation of the elementary band and strings program, the Odyssey program for gifted and talented students, foreign language programs, full-day kindergarten classes and the district's pre-kindergarten program.
"Those are all ares that are not mandated, however, they're highly-prized and highly thought of within Plattsburgh," Short said.
Overall, Short said he's pleased with the budget.
"We do have a number of positions that are being reduced and cuts, but what we've presented is a budget for the community to vote on that still maintains programs that we have heard over the years are near and dear to their hearts," Short said.
The budget will go before voters Tuesday, May 17. If the budget is defeated, the district has two options - move forward with a contingency budget that consists of reductions in services or rework the current budget for voters to approve or reject. If rejected a second time, the board will put in place its contingency budget.