Sale of shuttered schools won’t contribute much to shortfall
KINDERHOOK – The Ichabod Crane Central School District administration is expecting a $1.2-million shortfall in the 2012-13 budget. Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick reviewed the numbers with the Board of Education and community members at the second budget forum in the High School Auditorium this week.
The one aspect of school operations that won’t make much of a contribution the district’s bottom line is the disposition of two empty school buildings closed by the board last year.
At the January 24 budget forum, school board member John Antalek said that the board is finalizing an agreement with the Town of Kinderhook and Village of Valatie to move government offices to the Martin H. Glynn School in Valatie.
“Both parties are motivated and can make this work,” Mr. Antalek said of the negotiations with the municipalities. If the board approves leasing the building, residents will have to have to approve the lease as a separate referendum on the ballot for the May 15 annual budget vote.
But Mr. Antalek warned there would be no windfall for the district from leasing the building. The benefits will come from district no longer having to pay the for upkeep of the building, and the board committee is negotiating an agreement to retain the option to use some of the space in the building possibly to bring special education students back to the district, a move that would result in some future savings.
The community would also have access to the gym, playground and fields at the Glynn School if the village and town lease it.
Mr. Antalek said that pending board approval the district plans to sell the Martin Van Buren building in Kinderhook. The board does not need voter approval to move forward with that plan.
Much like the lease of the Glynn School, the sale of the Van Buren School would not produce a big boost to the annual budget, since any funds the district received from the sale would be used to pay down debt service on the building, and the district will lose all state aid it previously received for that school building. The district will not lose state aid in the lease deal, Mr. Antalek said.
As for the overall budget, the district must make up the $1.2 million in cuts and, so far, the biggest budget reduction would come from the plan to change to a one-bell busing system, which officials estimate will result in a savings of $340,000. A one-bell system means students in all grades would arrive and leave school at the same time. Right now the district has three separate bus schedules.
The district could also realize a savings of $288,000 if the board cuts full-day kindergarten and $50,000 from cutting the pre-K program. Mr. Bordick noted as well that art and music classes and use of the library are not mandated to be taught by certified teachers.
The shortfall in the budget comes from cuts in state aid and the property tax cap. Mr. Bordick said right now the district is looking at $34 million budget for next year, which would be at 3.35% increase. “I don’t want you to hold me to that,” Mr. Bordick said of those numbers, since it is early in the budgeting process.
Because of some state exemptions, the maximum allowable tax levy is not actually 2% for the district but rather 2.54%. But even that extra latitude will not permit the district to raise the budget to $34 million unless voters adopt the spending proposal with a supermajority – 60% of voters plus 1.
Information from the budget meetings is posted on the district website, www.ichabodcrane.org.
The board did address the merger study currently under way with the Schodack School District, saying the Merger Study Committee was holding its last meeting this week and there would soon be a community forum dedicated to the issue.
“We needed to approach this budget cycle as if there is no merger study going on,” said Board President Andrew Kramarchyk. “We are working very hard focusing on the Ichabod Crane that we have now,” he said.
The next regular board meetings is Tuesday, February 7 at 7p.m. in the middle school library and the next budget forum will be Tuesday February 14 at 7p.m. the location will be announced.