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Penn Yan trims more from budget

PENN YAN—The latest round of cuts to the 2010-11 Penn Yan Central School District budget brings the new proposed budget total to $31,645,709. Between March 3 and March 17, an additional $144,450 was pared from the budget. This new figure represents a 3.40 percent tax increase. or 35 cents over the current tax rate. Tomandl emphasized any further cuts could negatively impact programs.
Layoffs are a part of the budget and at the most recent meeting, Superintendent of Schools Ann Orman outlined specific cuts, emphasizing, “We will try for the least number of layoffs.” Of the 20.5 jobs that are slated to end, eight are expected to be through retirements.
Prior to presenting the latest cuts, Assistant Superintendent for Business Douglas Tomandl noted the fact the district has the lowest tax rate in the area and possibly the state at $9.74 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The budget to budget increase is 1.72 percent, the lowest Penn Yan has ever seen. This was achieved through reduced supplies in several areas, reduced athletic contractual obligations, retirements and reduction of two sports teams: freshman boys basketball and fall JV cheerleading. Tomandl said just two other districts will have freshman basketball teams and only four girls went out for the cheerleading this year. Prior to reviewing the latest revisions, Tomandl outlined some of the academic accomplishments and district successes.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Dave Armstrong said he wanted to compliment the people who put the budget together. He said 35.5 positions have been eliminated in the past two years and if the debt service was taken out there would be a negative budget. Armstrong stated, “I feel you are being financially irresponsible to expect zero percent increase.”
Board member Mike VanWormer commented, “We are trying to treat residents as fairly as possible. Property assessments are causing taxes to go up. Even a small increase is difficult for taxpayers. It’s good to keep it as low as we can. I don’t want cuts that would reflect programs.”  
Member Anita Maroscher added, “We’re kind of stuck between the lowest income and highest property values. We’re only 50 percent funded by New York State.”
In other business: Orman spoke about the recent bomb threats in district buildings, telling the board, “We will continue until we find the culprits.”
• Approved creation of the Paul E. and Pauline A. Titus Scholarship Fund and acceptance of the initial payment of $200,000 per the last will and testament of Paul E. Titus. Tomandl said interest will be used for the scholarship.
• The resignations of elementary teacher Linda Travis and Clerks Carol Leach and Mary Ellen Smolos were accepted, each effective June 30. Board member Nancy Scher said, “Oh, they will be missed.” Travis began at the district in 1978, Leach in 1986 and Smolos in 1971.
• Heard presentations from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Staff Development Howard Dennis. The first focused on Regents exams and the second on graduation rates. A proposal has been made to the Board of Regents from the Office of Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Continuing Education regarding modifications of the New York state testing program. The dozen proposals include cost savings for each one. Dennis went on to list the impacts on the Penn Yan District the proposal would make if adopted.
After presenting data covering graduation information from 2003 through 2009, Dennis outlined actions that have been taken and reasons for student failures. He said recent reports in the media took all the data and laid it side by side, looking at different groups of students. In 2003, 8 percent of the 144 students in the high school graduated. Eighty-seven percent of the 150 graduated. In 2004 the rate was 87 percent and in 2005, 64 percent of the 165 students graduated. The percentage increased by August 2009 when 71 percent graduation rate was listed.
At the conclusion of his presentation, Dennis said, “We’re not making excuses for these numbers. Something isn’t checking. We’re very open to do what we can to help these students.”
• The board scheduled a public hearing on the proposed budget on May 5 at 7 p.m. in the elementary school cafeteria. The vote on the annual budget. election of members of the board of education and propositions will be May 18 from noon until 8 p.m. in the Middle School Gym on Liberty Street.
The next regular meeting of the Penn Yan Central School District board of education will be at 7 p.m. March 31 iin the media center at Penn Yan Academy.

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