With objections, Watkins approves budget
WATKINS GLEN—The Watkins Glen school board approved the 2012-13 budget, despite the objections from staff and residents present, Monday, April 2.
Superintendent Tom Phillips explained the budget totals $23,218,855 and has a tax levy increase of 2.49 percent. It also maintains the cutting of 15 positions districtwide. Before the vote, several people spoke during visitor’s comments. Teacher Marie Fitzsimmons gave an impassioned plea, saying “I ask you, do not submit this budget tonight.” She asked the board to be a little more creative in finding ways to save money and keep staff for “the beautiful kids before you.”
Travis Durfee spoke as both a teacher and a Teacher’s Association representative. He said he has met with Assemblyman Chris Friend and Sen. Tom O’Mara about the budget issues. Durfee said the state’s tax cap hinders the district from being able to raise funds to meet the costs of unfunded mandates.
Resident Alan Hurley said the district should look more into shared services and that residents should continue to tell state representatives about these concerns. Hurley said no one is blaming the district for these decisions, adding “it exhibits (the state’s) incompetence.”
Phillips said that the budget gap has been offset in part by $87,000 in additional state aid, as well as the transportation savings from the mild winter. He explained that Watkins was able to close the final $49,000 gap using previous year refunds from gas and fuel.
Before voting on the final budget to present to district residents, board member Gloria Brubaker asked if they could later make changes to staff cuts due to additional funds. Phillips said they could because the board was voting on a spending budget total. He explained whatever they do after approving it, they cannot go over it.
In other business:
• The Watkins Glen Public Library presented on their 2012-13 budget. The proposal includes a $3,000 increase, for a $168,015 total budget. The vote is Wednesday, May 2, from 2 to 8 p.m. There will be an information session on Wednesday, April 25, from 3 to 5 p.m.
• The board approved the purchase of new science textbooks. Board member Michael Myers said it was a really good textbook. The board heard a presentation on the book at the previous meeting.
• Special education teacher Chris Clark was approved for tenure.
The next meeting is a workshop, Monday, April 16 at 5:45 p.m. There will be a regular board meeting, Monday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m.