Ticonderoga Central School District employees have agreed to a pay freeze. The district’s teaching, administrative and non-instructional staff have all agreed to forego salary increases during the 2012-13 academic year to help close a budget gap.
Ticonderoga Central School District employees have agreed to a pay freeze.
The district’s teaching, administrative and non-instructional staff have all agreed to forego salary increases during the 2012-13 academic year to help close a budget gap.
Ticonderoga was facing a nearly $2 million spending deficit for next school year, according to John McDonald, superintendent. The pay freeze along with $900,000 in other cuts has closed the budget cap to about $315,000, he said.
The salary concessions — which include pay, pension contributions and social security payments — total about $728,000.
“I’m very pleased, very proud of our employees,” McDonald said. “They’re putting kids first. We were looking at 17-21 staff cuts. It would have had a tremendous negative impact on our students.”
Rick Smith, president of the Ticonderoga Teachers Association, said his members overwhelmingly approved the pay freeze.
“We’re trying to keep our school whole,” Smith said. “Without a pay freeze the cuts to our programs and personnel would have been devastating.
“We’re getting squeezed by the state,” Smith said. “State aid dwindles year-after-year. Education in Ticonderoga and New York State is in a very precarious position.”
There are 115 members of the Ticonderoga Teachers Association. The group made more than $310,000 in concessions in the 2011-12 school budget.
“We are a union and it’s our responsibility to take care of our people,” said Mike Zent, president of the Ticonderoga Support Staff. “Had we not agreed there would have been an abundance of cuts if something else couldn’t be worked out. This was best for our people.”
There are 58 members of the Ticonderoga Support Staff.
With the pay freeze there will be no budget-related staff cuts. McDonald said two elementary teaching positions will be eliminated because of declining enrollment, a position in the administration office will be lost to retirement and a non-instructional position will be reclassified in next year’s budget.
“We made our folks aware of the situation, but they came to us with the offer to help,” McDonald said of staff. “They took it upon themselves to help out.”
Teachers were scheduled to get a 2.8 percent pay hike next year and non-instructional employees 4 percent. Administrative employees are non-union and their pay is set by the school board.
Ticonderoga will have about 180 employees, when school starts in the fall. McDonald pointed out that is a 10 percent cut in staffing in the past two years.
The school board will now turn it attention to other areas of the 2012-13 budget and to lobbying efforts to close the remaining $315,000 budget gap.
“We have to take a hard look at our extracurricular activities and athletic programs,” McDonald said. “We’ve also had a lot of conversations with our state legislators about a restoration of state aid. That could be huge.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set aside $250 million to reward high-performing schools in the state. The legislature has asked the governor to use $200 million of that to assist rural and upstate schools hit hard by state aid cuts.
While the district expects to gain about $300,000 in state aid in the 2012-13 budget, it will lose nearly $2 million in “one shot” funding that was used in the 2011-12 spending plan.
The New York State tax cap, which takes effect this year, calls for a 2 percent limit on tax increases — although some aspects of school spending are exempt from the tax cap.
In Ticonderoga that means taxes can increase a maximum of $350,000 in 2012-13. That’s a 3.5 percent increase when exemptions are added in.
At the same time Ticonderoga has lost nearly $1.7 million that was available in 2011-12. Gone are $700,000 in state Excel aid, $310,000 in employee concessions, $300,000 in local fund balance, $180,000 in federal stimulus money and $87,000 from the employee retirement fund.
A local school district can exceed the state tax cap with approval of 60 percent of local voters. McDonald doesn’t believe that’s realistic in Ticonderoga. Last year residents rejected the budget when it was first presented and passed it a second time by three votes.