Facing $1M gap, district wants no raise for teachers
KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane Board of Education has instructed Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick to propose a pay freeze to the union bargaining units that represent district teachers.
Board member John Antalek said at the board meeting Tuesday, February 28 that a “hard pay freeze” for teachers would save the district $328,000, an amount that “represents five full-time teachers,” he said.
As the district prepares its budget for the upcoming school year, it is looking at a $1.2-million shortfall. Mr. Bordick said at the meeting that after recalculating the tax levy allowed by the state, the board can propose a 2.65% increase instead of the 2.5% number they were working with before. “That’s $30,000 additional… to the district,” he said.
A budget with a tax levy increase at that rate has to win the approval of more than half the voters who turn out for the May 15 annual vote. Any increase above that would require a supermajority or more than 60% of voters.
The district has received a $22,000 state grant with the help of state Senator Steve Saland (R-41st). That money will be applied the $1.2 million budget gap. And Mr. Bordick said the district is looking at ways to make small cuts in the proposed budget.
Major cuts are coming though for the 2012-13 budget no matter what, and so far the board has looked at the savings of going to a one-tier–also called a one-bell, busing system, as well as cutting kindergarten and preschool programs, athletics, afterschool programs and food services.
On Tuesday the discussion focused on special education and the Questar III/BOCES programs.
The total BOCES budget, including special education services provided by Questar III, is $2.8 million, and there is state aid associated with using the program, Mr. Bordick told the board. He said Ichabod Crane has more students participating in the BOCES career technology program than any other school in the county.
As for special education, Mr. Bordick said the district is constantly looking at ways to create the least restrictive learning environment for the students in the program, as mandated by the state. Bringing students back to the district, or closer to their neighborhood schools, is the goal, and that has led to savings in the transportation for the special education program in recent years.
He said that overall the district now spends $5 million annually on special education for 326 students. Mr. Bordick said that is 15.7% of the district’s enrollment, which is a little higher than the state average.
At the next budget forum March 13 Mr. Bordick said he would have numbers for the board to consider in all the budget areas that can be cut. No decisions have been made yet about what will be cut.
The district faces a decrease in state ad, and over the last four years state aid has dropped by more than $3 million. Board members and administrators are urging residents to write letters to their state representatives and governor about the cuts.
When a district resident asked about the tax levy that would be needed to make up for the $1.2 million shortfall. Mr. Bordick said, “It would be close to 9%,” he said.
The board unanimously approved Mr. Bordick going to the bargaining units to suggest the pay freeze. “I was president of the teacher’s union for eight years,” said board member Regina Rose. But now, she added, “I find myself agreeing with my fellow board members” on the pay freeze.
The next regular board meeting will be Tuesday March 6 at 7pm in the Middle School Library and that next budget hearing will be Tuesday March 13 at 7pm, also in the middle school.