WARRENSBURG - The Warrensburg Central School Board backtracked Monday, March 2 and reinstated three of the five teaching positions that were set to be cut in an effort to reach a zero percent budgetary increase over the current $19.5 million dollar budget.
When the meeting came to order, the draft preliminary budget for fiscal year 2009-2010 featured the elimination of two elementary positions through attrition and another through firing. Further, two high school positions, driver's education and a staff English department position were also set to be eliminated.
Due to the reinstatement of the teaching positions, the 2009-2010 budgetary draft has a $21,000 increase instead of the $353,000 decrease the board had previously desired, officials said.
According to Gov. David Paterson's proposed budget, WCS may lose up to $353,000 in state aid, which prompted the board to look into staffing reductions and the elimination of some programs including summer school. WCS relies on more than $10 million in state aid annually, with the remaining $9.5 million falling to the local tax-base.
WCS Business Administrator Kevin Polunci said the elimination of the five positions, combined with program cuts including summer school would make up for the shortfall.
However, concerns over a drastic drop in academic quality prompted the board to reinstate the three teaching positions.
The board reinstated a third grade teaching position, the driver's education position, the English position and the summer school program. A fifth grade position and a special education position are still on the cutting block.
"This board needs to decide whether it is going to look at quality of the programs or dollars first," said Warrensburg Teachers Association President Marc Mularz. "Are we going to say that we are going to provide a second class education-- that we can't provide the education found in other area school districts like Lake George and North Warren."
Mularz said those who argue that the relatively economically poor state of the local demographic is not viable rhetoric by proponents of eliminating the positions.
"We keep hearing that Warrensburg is a poor district, but then I hear people saying that we need to shift even more cost on to the students," Mularz said to the board. "Serving the needs of the local children must be the first priority of this board."
The relatively high school taxes are considered a burden by many fiscally conservative Warrensburg residents, including several school board members.
Teachers association members argue that cutting the positions would lead to larger class sizes, which research suggests is detrimental to the student, and will lead to a reduction in class offerings at the high school level.
"I think learning to drive is an important life skill, but I just don't see it as an academic issue," said school board member Brian Lace. "I don't see why it shouldn't be left up to the parents."
If driver's education was cut, students would have to seek out costly private driving schools for the formal instruction, Mularz said.