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School budgets: Living with less

TRI-COUNTY AREA—The state of New York passed its budget in the early hours of March 30, including some last minute aid restoration to schools.
However, that has had little impact on the cuts school boards were planning for the 2011-12 school year. Doug Tomandl, Penn Yan assistant superintendent of business, said Penn Yan got $228,000 in last-minute aid through the state’s budget.
“That for us of course is good news,” he said.
Tomandl said the budget for the school year 2011 is $31,305,639. He said the district will get 8.2 percent less in state aid next school year according to the New York budget. That includes restored aid from the state.
Tomandl said Penn Yan’s cuts (totaling $2.5 million) include:
• 22.5 staff cuts.
• Funds for equipment and supplies by 20 percent.
• Reducing the number of field trips.
• BOCES services.
• Reducing elective class offerings.
• Coaching positions.
• Change in the elementary class blocking resulting in less time in art, music, and gym classes.
• Reductions in the facilities budget and technology expenses.
Penn Yan passed the budget Wednesday, March 30. However, Tomandl added the district is considering athletic cuts as well. He said the board is looking to take money from the reserve fund to balance the budget.
Another uncertainty is the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program with AES Greenidge. Tomandl said the school district now may not get funds from the company through that program. AES Greenidge, a coal-fired power plant in Dresden, closed in March.
Dundee’s budget for 2011-12 is currently $13,592,327. Superintendent Kathy Ring said the state aid for the upcoming school year is down 6.1 percent. She explained the board of education is still looking at budget reductions.
Ring said the current budget cuts for Dundee (totaling just over $400,000) include:
• Two teaching positions (social studies and elementary), both through attrition.
• Fall cheerleading and the JV teams of all sports except football and basketball.
• One bus purchase.
• Summer driver education program.
Ring explained the school considered which sports have a very high community attachment. She said that is why the JV teams were kept for football and basketball. Ring added the two sports will have just varsity and modified.
Clerk Nancy Clark said Hammondsport’s proposed budget for the 2011-12 year is currently $11,989,572. The Hammondsport school board has discussed cutting:
• Eliminating sports such as JV soccer.
• Reducing club offerings to their contractual limit.
• Making strategic transfers from the various reserves.
Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips said the aid restoration equaled $55,000.
“Quite frankly, it’s not enough to restore one position proposed for cutting,” he said. Phillips explained the budget would need about $60,000 to cover one staffer.
Comparing the 2011-12 budget to the current school year, Phillips said the state reduced aid by 7.96 percent. The total budget for next year currently is $24,125,960. The Watkins school board has had to plan several budget cuts due to less aid.
Phillips said the cuts (equalling around $800,000) include:
• 10.5 staff reductions.
• Reschedule the school day so elementary, middle, and high school all start at the same time. The district would only need one bus run.
• All JV athletic teams. Students would play either modified (grades seven to nine) or varsity (grades 10 to 12).
• All equipment purchases.
• All conferences.
• Decrease funding for professional development.
Phillips said the district is also looking at more cuts in extracurricular activities and support.
“It will simply be a school day and it’s done,” he said.
Superintendent Jim Frame said Odessa got $75,000 in restoration aid. He explained it would go to cover part of the $268,595 the district plans to borrow from reserves. Frame added the school districts are trying to figure out what formula was used to calculate the restoration.
Frame said Odessa will get 5.58 percent less in state aid for the 2011-12 school year. He said Odessa’s cuts (which total $928,582) include:
• 5.5 staff reductions.
• JV sports teams.
• Conferences and travel.
• Athletic supplies.
• Reductions in transportation supplies (parts, gas, diesel).
The total cost of cut supplies equals $384,349.
The next step is for the school boards to approve the budgets in April. District residents then vote on the budgets, and any school board member candidates, Tuesday, May 17.




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