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August 20, 2013

Area schools scour for budget savings

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Two recent efforts by pairs of area schools to address difficult economic times are waiting for further information, officials said Monday, while a third already underway has started paying dividends.

Schenevus and Worcester Central schools applied for a state Education Department grant to study a possible merger in March. Schenevus Central School Superintendent Thomas Jennings said Monday the schools are waiting to hear whether it was awarded. He said he expected there would be an answer in the near future. The action was taken because the districts, like many others in the state, have been facing difficult economic times for several years, he said.

The same situation has caused Unatego and Sidney Central schools to work with Castallo & Silky Education Consultants of Syracuse to suggest savings from shared services. The study could be delivered in about a week, Unatego business manager Nicholas Rosas said.

The schools are already working to share a chairperson for the committee on special education, he said. There probably won’t be any savings because the work was being done on a part-time basis by an administrator. But the required position is time-consuming, and having some devoting their time only to one area will be a benefit to the district, he said.

One district that is seeing savings from shared services is Jefferson Central School. According to Superintendent Carl Mummenthey, the district saved $70,793 in 2012-13, working with Charlotte Valley, Stamford, Cobleskill-Richmondville, and Middleburgh on various programs. Reduced costs and better programming are the most important benefits of shared services, he said. These have saved jobs and kept budgets growing at a rate far less than that of inflation, he said.

ONC BOCES District Superintendent Nicholas Savin said: “I think that schools are seeing the value of sharing services in an environment where we have both declining enrollments and state aid.” It’s a good sign that schools are trying to make sure educational services are maintained and they are looking for ways to do, he said. Although school budgets for 2013-14 were better than initially anticipated, “they realize they are not out of the woods.”