ICC closes budget gap with job cuts

KINDERHOOK–Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick recommended over $400,000 in cuts to the Ichabod Crane school board at a special budget meeting Tuesday night. The budget reduction would mean the loss of eight bus drivers and a social worker and cutting the modified sports program.

He also recommended that the board apply $100,000 from the teacher retirement account to the spending plan and take money from the reserves to close the remaining gap in the proposed 2012-13 budget.

Mr. Bordick made his recommendations at the board’s sixth and final public budget meeting Tuesday, March 27. The board must adopt a proposed budget at the April 3 meeting so the plan can go before district voters May 15. The board is looking at a $34-million budget, an increase from last year of 1.7%.

When the board and administrators started putting together the budget in January they thought they would have a $1.2 million shortfall due to a cut in state aid, which has not increased in two years, and compounded by the rising costs of salaries and benefits. The district also lost federal aid.

After getting more concrete numbers from administrators and the state, Mr. Bordick revised the gap, reporting to the board the district’s budget shortfall was $690,000. The amount of state aid may still change, but the district will not know the exact amount of help from Albany until later this spring.

He recommended the district go to a two-tiered bus system, with one set of buses transporting students in kindergarten through 3rd grade and another set of buses transporting students in 4th through 12th grades. That would save the district $164,000, mostly in staff cuts.

Coleen Winslow, the president of the union that represents the bus drivers, said eight bus drivers would lose their jobs and some will work shorter hours with the new system.

Mr. Bordick also recommended cutting the district’s only social worker, saying it would save the district $114,000. “We have a good number of support service people who do a good job,” he said of making up loose of services provided by the social worker. The district still has four psychologists and six guidance counselors.

He also put modified sports, the sports program in the junior high school, on the chopping block. That would save the district $40,000. The total budget for the program is $47,000 and he said they would keep $7,000 and find other athletic funds to start intramural teams to play local school districts. Mr. Bordick said that the school’s athletic director would report about the intramural sports program to the board before the end of the school year.

The district will receive two settlements from a healthcare audit, and the board plans to use the funds to help offset the shortfall. But Mr. Bordick warned that the district will need to be “careful and thoughtful about managing the fund balance” in the coming years.

If state aid does not increase, the district will be insolvent in the coming years, he said. “You just can’t throw fund balance at the problem and hope it goes away,” he told the audience at the school’s auditorium.

Few parents and teachers spoke at the meeting. Those who did mostly supported the choices the board planned to make for the proposed budget, though one teacher spoke in support of keeping the social worker. “You are proposing to cut a critical team member,” Tracey Gold, a middle school teacher, said.

Ms. Winslow, the drivers’ union leader, also spoke about the cuts. “At this point we are talking about jobs,” she said. The union, which also represents the district’s cleaners, clerks/typists and cafeteria workers, is willing to work with the district, she said.

Board members will make final decisions at the next meeting in the Middle School cafeteria on Tuesday April 3 at 7p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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