It is often said that communication is the key.


Giving the community a brief overview of the financial situation in which the Wayland-Cohocton School District is facing, presenting some of its current plans and listening to the community and answering their questions was the focus of the district’s more than hour-long community forum Monday.

It is often said that communication is the key.


Giving the community a brief overview of the financial situation in which the Wayland-Cohocton School District is facing, presenting some of its current plans and listening to the community and answering their questions was the focus of the district’s more than hour-long community forum Monday.


In anticipation of an on-time state budget with minimal increases recently proposed for educational aid, Superintendent Michael Wetherbee said he hopes to have exact numbers of the district’s state aid figures soon.


As it stands at press time, Wayland-Cohocton, which is 72 percent dependent upon state aid, is looking at $2,609,591 less from the state for next year, resulting in a $2,158,341 budget to budget gap.


For WCCS?to make up its losses, the district would have to increase its taxes by 38.5 percent, or $6.09 per thousand dollars of assessed value. This is not an option the district is proposing.


“Our goal is to put a budget together that meets student needs. But there’s the other side of the pendulum that we have to be concerned about – our local community’s ability to afford that education,” Wetherbee said.


He noted that salaries and benefits make up 75 percent of the budget, which means layoffs are inevitable.  


Wetherbee restated last week’s proposal of redistricting the Cohocton Elementary School boundary north to shift some Wayland Elementary students there to make up for teacher layoffs and even out class sizes.


This proposal would save the district nearly $370,000 with no additional busing required. Exact boundaries have not been determined yet.


With this, five retirements, a reduction of 10 additional full-time staff, cuts in the athletic department, an increase in fund balance and PILOT revenues, and the district is left with $335,417 to adjust.


The floor was then opened to the public.


Bob Hughes of Perkinsville asked about other rural districts across the state and if they are facing the same kinds of problems, which many are.


However, more affluent districts that are not as dependable on state aid are not seeing these types of cuts. Early in his presentation, Wetherbee compared districts with similar enrollment in Westchester, Nassau and other wealthy counties.


Those districts could make up their loss of state funds with between a one and seven percent tax increase.


Another topic brought up was the Cohocton rezoning proposal, which one parent said would be a burden if it were placed on her family. Wetherbee said he realizes this decision may not be popular with some, if not many parents, and he wished he was not in a position to have to recommend this proposal.


When asked about the possibility of closing the Cohocton school altogether, Wetherbee stated that the savings would be roughly $400,620, compared to the $370,000 for rezoning. However, he feels that the additional $30,000 to keep it open is worthwhile for the Cohocton community.


The $370,000 savings is through one-time layoffs that the district is not expecting to replace.


Making administrative cuts was another topic brought up by the public, which Wetherbee said, “People may not believe me, we are bare bones in administration.”


When someone asked about what services, positions and programs are proposed to be cut specifically, Wetherbee said that information is not solidified, but will be presented at the next board meeting on April 11.


When asked about union negotiations, Wetherbee said none are up for renegotiations this year, but he has been in talks with the administrator’s union regarding contractual concessions to help the district save money.


The teacher’s union already said no to concessions.


When athletic costs were brought up, Wetherbee said there have been discussions of perhaps combining some teams countywide, which would impact the coaching budget. When asked about encouraging more volunteer coaches, it was said that increased state mandates are inadvertently discouraging people to volunteer coach rather than encouraging them.


Increasing class sizes and decreasing support staff was another concern raised. Wetherbee said he intends to place supports staff where most needed.


While other questions and concerns were raised, a solution  was also posed. Wetherbee, the school board and parents agreed that the best solution is for community members to address state legislators and the governor about the effect the proposed state cuts have on economically struggling rural school districts and the state’s inequitable distribution of funds.


A form is available on the school’s website for writing to legislators.