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January 23, 2013

Area officials: School aid likely not enough to cover mandated costs

(Continued)

To help address the issue of state funding, a meeting of the Unatego Save Our Schools group will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday in the high school auditorium. The school will look to the community group to take the message about more equitable state aid for area schools to the legislature, he said.

At Delaware Academy Central School in Delhi, Superintendent Jason Thomson said the proposed state aid increase is $49,184.

“We understand that we have do more with less,” in the current economy, he said. But with a variety of costs increasing about $500,000, the budget season will be difficult, he said.

The district was able to keep taxes below the state’s 2 percent spending cap and reduce the overall spending last year by a variety of methods, included teacher givebacks and staffing cuts through attrition, Thomson said. He was not sure how much longer that can be done without cutting programs.

It’s too early to tell what Cuomo’s proposals for mandate relief mean for area districts, he said. That has potential to help, Thomson said, but “we need more details to understand what the impact will be.”

With the cut of $58,509 proposed for Sidney Central School, Superintendent Bill Christensen said the budget season will be “challenging.” He will be looking for details to determine exactly how the district will be impacted by all the proposals, but it was better than the cut of several hundred thousand the district absorbed following the “alleged” 2012-13 state increase, he said.

He was glad to see an acknowledgement of the mandated costs districts are facing. More needs to be done about the inequality in funding between upstate and downstate schools that heavily favors the latter, he said.

The district will again resort to a variety of strategies to close the $600,000 gap the school faces just to break even with its necessary expenses. The district will be able to do that with increased efficiencies and the use of fund balance but, “you can only do that for so long,” he said. That was the same strategy the district used to reduce taxes the last two years.

He said he will be looking into funding for several initiatives proposed by Cuomo that the school is already involved with, such as pre-kindergarten and all-day kindergarten, to see if they qualify.

He said he will have a better idea about what projected taxes will be in 2013-14 when school health care costs are received in the near future.

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