The Lake Placid Central School District hosted a public hearing Tuesday night on its proposed budget for 2011-2012, a spending plan that carries a 4 percent tax levy increase.
The district was once again forced to reign in spending and raise taxes in the face of rising costs and falling state aid and school enrollments.
The proposed school budget is $16.5 million, an increase of 3.6 percent over the current budget. School administrators cited rising costs for fuel, employee health insurance, and retirement benefits that they predict will add another half a million dollars to the budget next year.
They also noted that the school would experience a marked decline in state aid of more than $180,000 and a loss of federal stimulus funds of more than $400,000.
In response, the school plans to cut a number of staff positions, including a Special Education teacher, a home and careers teacher, a science teacher, a teacher's assistant and an administrative assistant. Some of these positions would be partially refilled by part-time employees and a fulltime assistant principal would be added.
The school's curriculum would also be consolidated, eliminating some elective courses including a program that spreads science courses over a two-year period in order to help slower learners.
But even with all these painful concessions, district Superintendent Randy Richards called the budget proposal a good compromise between offering students a first rate education and keeping taxes in check.
"An ideal budget would have about a million dollars more for things our district needs, but it's the best we can do given the circumstances," Richards said.
He pointed out that if the school had not made any changes to its current spending plan, the district tax levy increase would be more than 7 percent - an amount the school board said would not be acceptable.
About 30 people attended the meeting held in the high school auditorium, including most of the school board members.
One parent attending the meeting seemed to sum up the source of discontent among several people who spoke during the public hearing.
Eugene Byrne said his concern was not with the tax rate increase, but with the way that tax revenue would be spent.
"If the budget [is defeated], it will be because of the way we cut it up, not because of the tax increase," he said.
He was among others who questioned the decision to remove introductory science classes from the new school curriculum.
Another parent complained that introductory science courses her children need were being eliminated while Advanced Placement classes for smarter kids were being retained.
Herbert Stoerr is running for the school board in the upcoming election. He said the district should look at ways to buck a trend of spending more on administrative costs and less on student instruction.
He suggested leasing smaller school buses since the current 66 passenger buses never carry more than 40 people at a time. The present lease costs the school nearly $60,000 per year.