KINDERHOOK — The Ichabod Crane school board has set the dates for community budget development forums as school officials consider making major cuts in next year’s school budget. At the meeting this week board members said they want community input on issues like whether to close one or both of the elementary schools located off the main campus and what the district should spend on sports and extracurricular activities.
Also at the Tuesday, December 7 meeting Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick updated the board on the merger feasibility study the district is conducting with the Schodack Central School District. Mr. Bordick said that the original grant awarded to the two districts was for a consolidation study that would look into sharing services. Now the grant requires that districts look into merging as part of the study. Though the districts do not plan to merge, Mr. Bordick said they will get information from the study they can use in budgeting.
The district will be looking for any way to save money in the next school year, as funds get tighter. Mr. Bordick discussed a possible property tax cap, which Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo says he supports. A 2% tax cap would mean a huge loss of funds for the school district. If the sate adopts that low a cap on property tax increases, “the public school program that we know… is going to be fundamentally different,” Mr. Bordick said.
Board President Andrew Kramarchyk said the board has created a list of central issues for this budgeting process, which includes looking at the budgets of all sports programs and extracurricular activities, elective and non-mandated programs in the K-12 program, cutting a section in the lower grades, look at class size, eliminating or going to half-day kindergarten and closing one or both the elementary schools.
The board also mentioned going to a one-bell busing system, meaning all schools would start and end at the same time to create one set of bus runs; the district may also consider cancelling bus service to students living two to three miles from the district.
“This is the worst case scenario,” said board member Regina Rose, referring to the list. She said the cuts on the list do not reflect things that will happen, and she stressed that the board needs to look at the budget for all of these programs before members make any decisions about what to cut.
“We need to know what our real expenses and real revenues are,” Mr. Kramarchyk said of the budgeting process.
The board has scheduled six meetings over three months to reach out to the community about the budget. The prospect of closing of the elementary school buildings is set for discussion January 11 and the possibility of cutting one section form the lower grades is on the agenda for a January 25 meeting. On February 8, those who attend are expected to discuss sports and extracurricular activities; on February 15 they will look hard budget numbers and department budgets. Meetings March 15 and 29 are for reviewing the budget.
The board plans to adopt the proposed budget April 12. The annual vote will be held May 17, 2011.
All budget meetings will be at 7 p.m., and the first two in February will be at the high school auditorium. The topics may change and the board may add a meeting in April. More information will be on the district website, www.ichabodcrane.org.
The next regular board meeting will be at 7 p.m. January 4 in the middle school library.