Saugerties school sees $2.2m shortfall

Photo by Dion Ogust

Photo by Dion Ogust

The Saugerties School District faces a $2.27 million budget gap with five months to go before the budget vote.

Administrators say the gap is the result of large increases in employee pensions, salaries, and benefits with no expected increase in state aid to make up the difference. Asked if there might be cuts to sports, art, music, or extracurricular activities, as was necessary to balance the budget in 2010, Superintendent Seth Turner said, “I’m not seeing cuts at this point except those naturally occurring.” By this he means the smaller sizes of incoming classes, which require less staffing.

On whether he thought the district might try to exceed the tax cap, Turner said, “I don’t think so. It’s off the table to try and exceed it.”

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An expected increase in the teacher retirement system rates from 11.8 percent to as much as 16.5 percent may cost the district $900,000, with another $120,000 for other district employees. Additionally, the district must pay an additional $600,000 in salary step increases and $650,000 for health insurance benefits.

The district holds an unreserved surplus fund of $2.4 million, some of which Turner has indicated will have to be used to balance the budget.

The district’s allowable tax levy increase ranges from 1.7 to 2.3 percent; the high end of which equates to roughly $811,000. The final number will be dependent on how much the district will be required to contribute to the teacher retirement system.

At a January Board of Education meeting, Turner said the administration would begin discussing revenues in-depth later in the month through February. “We’re in a little bit of a holding pattern,” Turner said, noting that the administration is currently considering the “broad parameters” of the issue.

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