KINDERHOOK–Superintendent James Dexter discussed Governor Patterson’s grim school aid numbers with the Ichabod Crane School board at a special budget meeting Tuesday, January 26. “It’s no insurmountable, but it is challenging,” Mr. Dexter said of creating a school budget facing the prospect of steep cuts in aid.
School Business Administrator Gregory Giammarco announced at the meeting that the governor is proposing a statewide reduction in support of public schools of $1.1 billion. Ichabod Crane would lose an estimated $822,012 in aid. “I’m giving these a lot of credence,” Mr. Giammarco said of the proposed numbers.
He said that the district has already suffered aid loses, and while some funding reductions have been made up by federal economic stimulus money, that program is scheduled to end in 2011. Mr. Dexter said the district is presently looking at a budget gap of $2 million. “That’s a big number,” he said.
Mr. Dexter said as the board crafts next school year’s budget board members and the administration will be looking at what kind of program they can offer for an estimated $33-million budget.
“There are people that are going to [lose] their positions,” Mr. Dexter said in anticipation of staff cuts. He said the district is waiting to learn the costs of health insurance and retirement plans, expenses school officials must factor in to the budget. He said he was not yet ready to announce the number of potential positions to be cut.
The district will hold budget meetings almost every Tuesday for the next two months. Mr. Dexter proposed coming back to the board Tuesday, March 2, with recommendations for cuts. He hopes by that meeting he will be able to report to the board “what programs will be affected and how.”
“Every school district I talk to is in the same or worse position,” said Mr. Dexter. In creating the budget he said, “Our goal is to be as transparent as possible.”
At the Tuesday night’s meeting there was a table full of paperwork for from different administrators with class sizes information, department budgets and spending requests. This week high school and middle school administrators presented their proposed budgets, as did the Athletic Department.
“We will work with what we have,” said high school Principal William Schneider, but he said administrators hope to keep their current program intact next year to the degree possible. “The department chairs… spend their money wisely,” he said.
Board members had some suggestions and questions about where cuts could be made. There was talk of class sizes going up and the possibly of closing one of the school buildings, since enrollment in the district is going down.
Board President John Phillips said the board would have to determine whether there are real savings that come from closing a building.
Mr. Dexter said the district is looking into everything when it comes to saving money. “At every level we’ll have to look at those things,” he said.
The next regular school board meeting will be Tuesday, February 2, at 7 p.m. in the middle school library. There will be budget meetings Tuesday February 9 and 23.
Information about the district is available at www.ichabodcrane.org.