Saugerties to vote on $54.7 million school budget

A scout looks on at an informal budget hearing last week (photo by Will Dendis)

Voters will head to the polls May 15 to pick three trustees for the School Board and decide the fate of the board’s proposed $54.7 million budget. The tax levy increase would be 1.7 percent.

Should the budget fail, the School Board would have to cut about $645,000, said Superintendent Seth Turner at a public budget forum on May 7. That would mean the elimination of four teaching positions, five full-time teacher assistants, some equipment and possibly some sports.

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More specifically, the reduction in four teaching positions would be split between two layoffs and leaving two vacancies created by retiring teachers unfilled, Turner said.

“From our standpoint, we could say the positions won’t be there, but the high school administration would have to determine how they would meet those needs. It would most likely mean some loss of advanced placement courses at the secondary level and higher class loads in social studies and in science,” Turner said.

Science would be a particular problem because “there’s a lab component, and you can only get a certain number of students into a laboratory at a time.”

The loss of two teachers at the elementary level would mean larger classes in two grades. This could make it impossible to keep students with special needs in the mainstream, Turner said.

The loss of teaching assistant positions would be particularly damaging, Turner said. “I have mentioned some four or five teaching assistant positions would be eliminated. Teaching assistants take on a myriad of responsibilities across the district. That’s how some of our library programs are run since two years ago we halved the number of librarians in the district.”

The estimates are not final, but they give an idea of what would be lost. The number of students with special needs, which would be worked out later in the year, would have an impact on the budget.

 

The numbers

Spending in the next school year would be $54.67 million, a 2.3 percent increase over this year. The tax levy – the amount to be raised by local property taxes – would increase 1.87 percent, below the 2 percent tax cap imposed by New York State. The proposed budget would result in a tax levy of $35.19 million, up $645,094 from this year’s $34.55 million.

Tax rates based on the budget are projected to be $17.66 per $1,000 for town and village residents, an increase of 32 cents, or 1.87 percent. The percentage increase would be the same for Woodstock and Ulster.

For the first time in several years the school district has a fund balance, popularly called a surplus, from last year to draw on, Turner said. The budget calls for an appropriation of $300,000 of the approximately $1.2 million surplus to offset taxes.

The budget preserves all major programs, including sports, Turner said. It cuts two English as a second language teachers and an elementary school teacher. While the cost of outsourcing the ESL program to BOCES is almost the same as the salary savings, the district saves fringe benefits. In addition, an administrative position – data administrator – will be eliminated from the budget for next year, along with five part-time monitors.

State aid is budgeted at $18,297,227, about $54,000 more than the 2011-2012 budget, an increase of about 0.3 percent according to the budget document.

Turner will earn $161,262 under the proposed budget, the bottom of the range specified in his contract. That’s a 2.00 increase over his current salary of $158,100.

The budget for students with disabilities declined by $101,341, or 1.28 percent, from $7935,233 to $7,833,892. This was largely the result of a 14,32 percent drop in the amount paid to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) from $1,466,574 to $1.256.512.

While the budget is tight, it preserves many of the amenities parents want for their children, such as sports and extracurricular activities. If the budget fails, the board will have to find an additional cuts, as the district would be prohibited from spending any more than it did last year.

The Saugerties Central School District School Board elections and 2012-2013 budget vote will be held from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15. Polling will be at the district’s schools.

 

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