Schools chief says contracts trigger pay hikes

CHATHAM – The school board held its annual budget hearing this week on the proposed $27-million budget for 2011-12 and its tax levy increase of 1.98%. There will also be a bus purchase proposal on the May 17 ballot and a proposition to have a high school student appointed as a non-voting member of the board.

Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo presented the final budget proposal numbers at the Tuesday, May 10 hearing and meeting, where a few residents came out to voice concerns over increases in salaries for district employees. Budget numbers showed steep increases for some employees, though Ms. Nuciforo said that was because of reallocating of budget lines. “Nobody got a 10% raise,” she said. But she did say that increases in the salaries were part of contractual obligations with union bargaining units in the district.

“There should be freezes, not giving raises at this point in time,” said one resident.

Ms. Nuciforo said that when the board negotiates with the employees’ unions the two sides look at the economic climate at the time.

“There are two groups of people we are beholden to,” she said, referring to district taxpayers and students. Ms. Nuciforo said that this budget reflects the need to give the best possible education to those students in an economically responsible way.

The budget includes adding some classes, hiring a new guidance counselor and an enrichment teacher. Expenses for graduation and the Drama Department, which were previously supported by fundraising efforts, were also added to the proposed budget.

The board also approved cutting the position of middle school assistant principal. The district is cutting bus runs from 20 to 18 and the proposal calls for using money from the district’s reserve funds.

The money to buy one new 66-passenger bus would come from funds set aside in the 2010-11 budget, Ms. Nuciforo said. The district also plans to trade in two 65-passenger busses that are over 14 years old. Since going to the one bell system, the district is cutting its fleet of buses.

The board also approved the contract for to rehire interim Business Administrator Chuck Snyder at $120,000 for next year. The board also made several tenure appointments: Joshua Noble, Paulsak Vachiraprapum, Ashley Gerace, Chelsea Wells, Jodi Sullivan, Holly Fiero and Cheryl Gauthier.

The board also discussed sharing services with other districts. The neighboring districts of Ichabod Crane and Schodack are conducting a functional consolidation study. Ms. Nuciforo said she would reach out to other local superintendents and board members to talk about sharing services.

Taylor Wenk, the current student representative on the school board, said several students have expressed an interest in taking her place next year. The student government interviewed the candidates, and if voters approve the proposition, they will appoint someone. “We have three good finalists,” she said, “Anyone of them will be good to have.”

The board also honored student Cole Gleason, a baseball player who was WNYT’s Dunkin Donut’s Player of the Week. Ms. Nuciforo played the clip that ran on the TV channel’s news show and High School Principal John Thorsen praised Dale’s volunteer work and good grades. “Cole’s a true leader,” said Mr. Thorsen.

The next regular board meeting will be May 24 at 6:30pm in the high school library. The annual vote will be held Tuesday May 17 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the MED gymnasium.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .


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