ICC board ponders fate of sports, buses

KINDERHOOK -At its last scheduled budget development meeting Tuesday night the Ichabod Crane school board discussed salvaging the modified sports program previously removed from the proposed $37.6-million budget.

At the March 30 meeting board members also discussed the Bus Purchase Proposal, which will appear as a proposition separate from the school district budget on the May ballot. Transportation Director Sherrill Phillips told the board the plan is to replace 4 of the district’s 65-passenger buses with 4 buses that carry 72 passengers each. She and Business Administrator Gregory Giammarco stressed that four buses is what the district needs. Ms. Phillips said that her mechanics tell her that of the fleet of buses, 16 are in poor condition and 7 are rated fair. “And those seven in fair will be in poor soon enough,” she said.

The bus purchases would cost roughly $428,000, said Ms. Phillips. Mr. Giammarco said that the district will pay that amount over time and will receive state aid to offset some of the cost. The board plans to vote on whether to place the proposition on the ballot at the next meeting in April.

A parent at the meeting read a letter from her daughter, an Ichabod Crane graduate, about saving the music program. Schools Superintendent James Dexter said that the Music Department is working on shuffling teachers’ schedules to cover the proposed cut in staff positions. He said next year’s music program won’t offer everything the current program does, but he hopes the district will keep much of what’s now available. In the proposed budget one music teaching position, a part-time instrumental music teacher position and the marching band program are to be cut.

Sean Dugan, a parent and coach who was in the audience, spoke to the board about saving the $56,000 modified sports program at the middle school. He said that 150 students in the district participate in the sports, and he said there were ways to save money in transportation costs and payments to officials and coaching salaries that the board could consider.

Many board members expressed support for retaining either the whole program or parts of it. They discussed raising the proposed tax levy to support the program. “I personally would not have a problem with raising the levy to 2.8%,” said board member Gary Bagnato.

“Sports are very important to me but I feel very strongly that we have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers in this community,” said board member Thomas Neufeld, who supported salvaging the program but not in full.

Board member Anthony Welcome said he felt voters would approve a 2.8% levy increase, but he didn’t want to see the board sacrifice anything else in budget to save the program. “I just don’t want to cut more staff,” he said.

Mr. Dexter said that he and Mr. Giammarco could look at different options for the board if they raised the levy and kept the sports program, but the superintendent warned the board that the budget would be an issue in years to come and he wanted to make sure the district is in solid financial shape at the end of the next school year. Mr. Dexter is leaving the district for a new position at the end of this school year.

At the end of the meeting the board thanked community members for their feedback, but some who attended expressed concern about retaining the sports program while others are cut. “Sixth grade isn’t going to have a foreign language because we cut a position, but we’re going to have modified [sports],” said one audience member.

The board will discuss the budget again at the next regular meeting Tuesday, April 13, and later this month the board will adopt a proposed budget for the 2010-11 school year. The annual vote is May 18. There are three open board seats on the ballot as well. Ballot petitions for interested candidates will be available at the district office starting April 5.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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