Governor Andrew Cuomo recently proposed a $1.5 billion cut to education. In addition to federal reductions, that becomes a total $2.8 billion loss to New York schools next year. This is leaving local administrators and school board officials to make much tougher decisions than last year.

 

By Jeff Miller
Staff Writer
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently proposed a $1.5 billion cut to education. In addition to federal reductions, that becomes a total $2.8 billion loss to New York schools next year. This is leaving local administrators and school board officials to make much tougher decisions than last year.

Dansville
With budget cuts and increased expenses combined, the Dansville Central School District faced a $2.5 million budget gap between the 2009/10 and 2010/11 school years.
Residents thought that was bad.
Now the budget gap between 2010/11 and 2011/12 looks like it will be $3.8 million.
Superintendent Paul Alioto said Wednesday afternoon that, “I’m uncertain whether or not we can put together a list of cost-saving measures that equals $3.88 million. However, I’m working with the finance committee and the administrative team to put together a comprehensive list of cost-saving measures, and present that list to the Board of Education on March the first.”
The district will be conservatively drawing from its Debt Service reserves and Educational Retirement System reserves, Alioto said, stating that it will be using less from each reserve than it did for this year to not deplete its savings.
Alioto and business manager Kristin Barrett talked some about the proposed 2 percent tax cap, stating that a 2 percent tax increase will generate the district $140,613.
Compared to another school district the same size in Westchester County, where properties are worth much more, a 2 percent increase would generate that district $986,000.
“The tax cap basically discriminates against poor, rural communities,” Alioto said.   
He has invited all contiguous districts to a meeting that will study opportunities to save money through sharing services and programs on a long-term basis.
Michael Glover, administrator of Genesee Valley Education?Partnerships, has been asked to facilitate the meeting.
Alioto said that, “everything is open to discussion” as far as possible cost-saving measures, including personnel and administrative reductions.
“At the end of this, I could be the one who’s out of a job.”

Wayland-Cohocton
During its regular meeting Feb. 7, Superintendent Michael Wetherbee addressed the Wayland-Cohocton Board of Education on the governor’s proposal.
He stated that the cuts equate to an aid reduction of about 6.5 percent optimistically, but believes the decrease could be closer to 7.5 percent.
This adds up to a $2 million budget gap between this year’s expenditures and next; about the same as it was last year.
Wetherbee commented on the state’s proposed reduction as being inequitable in that the downstate-controlled legislature is playing favorites with school districts.
He gave some examples of a few of those districts, such as Syosset (Long Island) which is proposed to have a 0.77 percent cut and Scarsdale (Westchester County) with a proposed 0.52 percent state aid cut.
Some Rochester suburban districts are also receiving a lesser cut.
Those districts need to add a minimum tax increase, as Alioto alluded, in order to fare fine.
“So you can see how much more of a dramatic impact this budget has on communities like ours, Dansville, Keshequa... we’re the communities that are trying to have to make much more sacrifices.”
Wetherbee also announced that the district may no longer receive state aid on some non-instructional services through GVEP in the future; and that it would not surprise him if that would “add up to a couple hundred thousand less in state aid very quickly if that goes into effect.”
Some Special Education aid may freeze as well in the future, Wetherbee  noted.
“It’s very discouraging. I really think this is a civil rights issue. It is reducing  the ability for communities like ours to offer an equitable education to our children. We can’t keep up with suburban school district.”
With so many cuts to rural districts, Wetherbee fears that “people will not want to send their kids to school in rural America. If they’ve got the ability, [families] will move.”
Last year’s budgetary decisions, Wetherbee  said, “pale in comparison to the challenges we face this year.”
He said that there will be some difficult discussions  with the board on sensitive topics in regards to what needs to be done in order to develop a fair tax increase for the community.
Monthly budget presentations have been posted on the district’s website  (www.wccsk12.org). The latest, on general support, was presented by business manager David Mastin during the Feb. 7 meeting.

Keshequa
The governor’s proposed cut for Keshequa is roughly $983,000.
With health insurance and retirement expenditures increasing for next year, just as Dansville and Wayland-Cohocton, business administrator Dominic Aloisio said Keshequa is looking at a gap likely in excess of  $1 million, but will be solidifying that number within the next week or two.
“We’ve all been expecting some cuts, but we’re hoping it won’t be that big,” he said.
Keshequa’s annual budget for this year is $18 million; with $13 million of it coming from the state. Roughly $4 million comes from local taxes, and about $1 million comes from interest earnings, refunds and other miscellaneous revenue.
Keshequa has been reducing its staff for the past few years based on enrollment figures, and may cut staff next year based on both enrollment and state revenue decreases.
The lay-offs are still “on the table,” Aloisio said.
The board has allowed a retirement incentive to help spur cost-savings through attrition.
Other cost-saving measures Keshequa is looking at includes taking some additional money out of its reserves – possibly as much as an extra $200,000 more than this year.
Keshequa may also moderately raise property taxes. A two-percent tax cap for Keshequa would give the district another $80,000, but far below its needed (anticipated) $1 million.
Again the two percent is based on a proposed state tax cap, but if the cap is not imposed this year, each district will likely be looking at an increase a little more than that.
Aloisio mentioned that the district recently refinanced some of its debt, saving about $100,000 per year.
In light of a possible $1 million gap, Aloisio said, “we don’t anticipate any dramatic program changes.”
Educational and extracurricular programs should remain.