The gap elimination adjustment cost the district $400,000 for 2012-13. The district’s budget gap was $357,000. To meet the shortfall, staff has been cut so “we are down to the bare bones. There is not much else we can do without affecting programs.”
If the state keeps cutting and shifting the burden to the local taxpayer, there will come a point where “we can’t do this anymore,” he said. “We are not there yet.”
He said he was waiting on “pins and needles” to see what a committee appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo would say about reducing costs and reorganizing schools.
Sidney Central School Superintendent Bill Christensen said he agrees upstate schools don’t receive as much as their downstate counterparts. But, Sidney has taken cost savings steps, including closing two elementary schools in 2005, that have left the district in relatively good financial shape despite state cuts.
The challenge is that while the district is taking steps to improve efficiency, including using more BOCES services and cutting three administrators and other staff during the past three years, there are huge increases in state and federal requirements, such as increased teacher evaluations. Because of this, state aid has to keep pace with the cost of living for the district to avoid a future problem, he said.
Unadilla Valley Central School Superintendent Robert Mackey said that if state aid does not increase, insolvency is not imminent. His school is in a better position than others because about 38 positions out of a staff of about 200 were cut in the last two years. When someone retires, the district examines whether the position has to be filled to meet state requirements. The various unions have also been cooperative in helping keep costs under control, he said.
He added that this has been an issue for several years as the state has cut aid, resulting in larger class sizes and cuts in electives. He couldn’t say what the future would be beyond five years if aid does not improve.