Facing a $540,000 budget gap, the Ticonderoga Central School board of education was forced to make tough decisions when preparing the proposed 2013-14 budget. The spending plan calls for the elimination of 11.6 full-time equivalent jobs and cuts in academic programs.
Facing a $540,000 budget gap, the Ticonderoga Central School board of education was forced to make tough decisions when preparing the proposed 2013-14 budget.
The spending plan calls for the elimination of 11.6 full-time equivalent jobs and cuts in academic programs.
“We’ll maintain everything required for an advanced Regents diploma,” Superintendent John McDonald said. “We’ll have to cut some electives, cut some college-level classes, make cuts in music and art.”
The proposed 2013-14 budget totals $18,514,628. That’s an increase of $664,805 — 3.73 percent — from the current spending plan of $17,849,823.
The proposed 2013-14 tax levy is $10,706,316. That’s an increase of $389,584 — 3.78 percent — from the $10,316,732 raised by taxes in 2012-13. That meets the state-mandated tax cap.
Voting on the proposed budget will be Tuesday, May 21, noon to 8 p.m. at the Ticonderoga High School lobby and at the Hague Community Center.
To reach the state-mandated tax cap the proposed budget cuts full-time math, science, English and teacher aide positions. It also cuts 4.5 teaching assistant jobs. Half-time computer aide, English and physical education positions are eliminated. It reduces full-time English and foreign language jobs to half time. Other positions in guidance, home and careers, music, art, business, technology, English and math are cut by 20 percent as is a social worker job.
In all, 25 employees are being cut to some degree.
Also eliminated is a librarian position. That person is retiring and will not be replaced.
“I’m concerned that we’re losing good people,” McDonald said. “Typically cuts affect young staff. They’re people with new, fresh ideas and enthusiasm. We need their contributions.
“There is nobody on the list (of cuts) I don’t value,” he added. “They’ll all very professional, dedicated to working for our kids.”
Five years ago Ticonderoga Central School has 120 teachers. Today there are 100. Next year there will be 88.5.
McDonald pointed out that’s more than a 25 percent reduction in teaching staff. During that same period enrollment has declined 15 percent.
“We’ll have to be creative and work harder,” McDonald said of the smaller staff. “Fortunately, we have a good history of doing just that.”
The proposed budget also calls for $15,000 to be cut from athletics and extracurricular programs. McDonald said specific cuts will be determined after the district does an analysis of participation and competitive opportunities.
Limits placed on the district by the state tax cap allow a local tax levy of $10,706,316. That’s an increase of $389,584 from the present tax levy. But while Ti is limited to a $389,584 tax increase, costs out of the district’s control have soared. Retirement costs for district employees are up $460,000 and employee health insurance is up $150,000 in 2013-14. Also expected to increase are fuel, heating, utility and other costs.
Also, after three years of concessions, Ticonderoga teachers will return to their contractual salary schedule and receive a 2.8 percent pay increase.
McDonald said Ti teachers have been leaders in sacrificing for the good of the district. Teachers have made wage concessions the past three years totaling more than $1 million. He said Ti teachers are the only ones in the state to make concessions three consecutive years.
Non-instructional workers, who also made concessions last year, will get 3 percent pay increases in 2013-14.
“We will meet all our contractual obligations,” McDonald said.
The reason for Ticonderoga’s financial difficulties is simple, the superintendent said.
“We played by the rules,” McDonald said. “We never exceeded the 4 percent fund balance prescribed by the (state) comptroller. As a result we don’t have the reserves that other districts built up. Basically, we’re being punished for playing by the rules.”
McDonald believes Ticonderoga is turning a corner this year financially and future budgets will be less harsh.
“I’m confident that beyond next year we’ll get back to fiscal and program health,” he said. “We’ve done an analysis of state trends and believe we’ll be in a much better position next year.
“I want to commend the school board for staying within the tax cap and making some very tough decisions,” he said.
If the budget is rejected by voters the school board could place another spending plan up for a vote. A second rejection would mean a contingency budget for the district.
McDonald believes a contingency budget — which would be $18,219,087 as set by the state — would be harmful to the district. It would require cutting another $400,000 from the proposed budget. Those cuts would almost all be personnel, he said, and would result in loss of programs.
Voters will also consider a separate proposition to purchase a bus at a cost not to exceed $93,843 and elect three board of education members.
Seeking seats on the school board are M. Mark Russell, Robert Palandrani Jr., Tracey Cross-Baker and R. William Grinnell. Russell, Palandrani and Grinnell are incumbents.