KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane Central School District will receive over $400,000 as its part of a health insurance settlement. The money may help reduce the estimated $1.2 million shortfall the district faces as officials prepare the 2012-13 school budget.
The district’s Finance Committees is trying to figure out where to use the $418,599 awarded to the district as the result of a settlement with the Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene Health Insurance Trust and Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthcare. The issue facing the district, said John Antalek, a member of the board and the Finance Committee, is: “How do we not squander it?”
The district has actually been awarded two sums of money. There is $442,000 that will be used to replenish the worker compensation reserves that the board borrowed from; $192,000 of that amount will go into the fund balance. The other sum of $418,599, scheduled to be paid to the district this September, can be applied to the annual budget or allocated to different reserves, Mr. Antalek said at the March 6 meeting.
“It’s a one-time windfall for the district,” said Mr. Antalek. He and Interim Schools Superintendent Lee Bordick stressed that this is money the district may never see again. There is no reason to believe there will be future settlements like this, and Mr. Antalek warned it could mean higher premiums.
“It could always go the other way,” said board member John Chandler, suggesting that future audits of the healthcare trust might result in the district having to pay more.
Mr. Bordick said that they could use the money to reduce the deficit in the 2012-13 proposed budget, but this would not resolve the entire gap in the budget. Cuts would still have to be made to programs before the district can adopt a budget that complies with the state’s cap on budget increases.
The board plans to look at some programs that can be cut at their next budget forum on Tuesday March 13. Although the state has set a nominal cap of 2% on tax levy increases, certain exemption will allow the district to place a 2.65% tax levy increase before voters in the May budget vote.
“We’ll know soon, after another forum or two, if we can meet that,” said board president Andrew Kramarchyk of the tax levy cap.
The district could propose a tax levy with an increase greater than 2.65%, but that could only take effect if more than 60% of voters approve the plan.
Because the ICC district is slated for cuts in state aid, as opposed to most other districts in the region, which will see small increases, board members are heading to Albany to meet with state representatives next week. Board member Regina Rose presented a letter for board approval that tells state officials: “We have come to Albany today because we believe Public Education is in crisis.” Cuts in state aid and the need for districts to use reserve funds to pay for basic budget items are added to the state education mandates that are increasing demands on schools, the letter says.
Board members have asked community members to write letters too, and they have put the addresses of state representatives and the governor on the district website, www.ichabodcrane.org.
Also at the meeting the board:
*Approved extending the free pre-school program run by Advanced Therapy for the summer. The program, which serves 31 students, some with special needs, comes with no cost to the district. Advanced Therapy pays for the teachers and teacher aids through county funds and uses a room in the high school. The program is open to pre-school students in the district
*Approved the retirements of Maxine Muscatiello, high school physics teacher who has worked in the district since 1995; James Beattie, high school calculus teacher who has worked in the district since 1973; and Martha Ellis-Kole, special education teacher who has worked in the district since 1982. “They have all made wonderful contribution to the kids,” said Ms. Rose
*Awarded Coldwell Banker in Cohoes the contract to sell the Martin Van Buren School building in the Village of Kinderhook. The firm will list the building and make a 7% commission if it finds a buyer. If the district finds a buyer, Coldwell will make a 3% commission on the closing. The board still plans to rent the Martin H. Glynn School in Valatie to the Town of Kinderhook and Village of Valatie to use as office space.
The next regular board meeting will be Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. in the Middle School Library. The next budget forum will be Tuesday, March 13 at 7 p.m. in the Middle School Cafeteria.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email