Zini sees district picking up full cost in next 3 years
KINDERHOOK–Ichabod Crane Superintendent George Zini presented the board with a proposed $34 million budget for next year with a 3.84% tax levy increase at a special budget meeting this week. He started his presentation with a detailed look at the football program that he plans to partially include in the budget for 2013-14. Over the next three years he proposed that the district gradually absorb the full cost of the program.
Mr. Zini said that the football program, which has been privately funded for several years by a football booster club, was a problem he felt he needed to solve. He told the small crowd gathered in the high school auditorium Tuesday, March 26 that when he was hired by the board in January he talked to many members of the school community and others, saying, “The number one issue was everyone’s desire to resolve this issue.”
In 2007 the school board approved a pilot program for football, which would be privately funded. Two years ago the board added about $30,000 to the budget to support the program. That budget was defeated by residents and the board approved a contingency budget with the football funds removed.
The program continued with private funding. Last year the board cut the funding for the middle school sports program, called modified sports, and that also was privately funded this school year. Mr. Zini included football and modified sports in the proposed budget for 2013-14.
With money from the football booster club and funds made at the home games and concession stand, Mr. Zini said that the program will cost the district about $5,000 next school year. He also reduced the stipend for the athletic director from $30,000 to $7,000. The current athletic director, Paul Thompson, is a retired teacher, who is leaving the post at the end of this year. Mr. Zini said after the budget forum that the reduction in stipend was consistent with what other area schools pay their athletic directors.
Though school board member John Chandler said the football program in the upcoming school is “cost effective,” some board members and residents who spoke talked about their concerns about the cost over time for the program and whether the community again will vote down the budget due to the added program.
“The budget as a whole is bigger than one program,” said board member John Antalek, “Does the community support it or not.”
Mr. Zini said he did not think it was fair to fund other sports and not football. Other parents echoed his concerns. Board member Cheryl Trefzger said, of the district not funding the program, “I find this discrimination.” She went on to say “The pilot implies a promise.”
Mr. Zini stressed that the district would not have to cut anything this year after making cuts from the last three years, which included closing two school buildings and laying off staff. He did not go into detail on the cost of programs other than the athletic program in his presentation but focused on the total budget showing the highest costs in district coming from teacher and administration salaries, at 50%, and benefits at 29.5%.
He said that they should receive the final state aid numbers this week, and he is anticipating more aid than last year but still not as much aid as the district received in the past.
Parents also asked about class sizes in the primary school and the need for space in that building. Mr. Zini said they were looking at possibly getting a trailer to use but had not discussed the cost.
As for the 3.84% tax levy increase in a state with a 2% tax cap, Mr. Zini played a video the explained how schools get some exceptions from the state in the calculations, and they can raise the tax levy to that amount without the need for budget approval by a super majority of district voters.
One thing he and board members emphasized is that if the budget is defeated twice and the district goes to a contingency budget, school officials will have to cut $800,000 from the budget.
The board will decide whether to adopt the budget proposal Tuesday, April 9. There will be a budget hearing May 14 and the annual vote will be May 21.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .