Budget’s months away, but ICC foresees possible squeeze

KINDERHOOK – The Ichabod Crane School Board had early discussions about the 2016-17 school budget this week at the first meeting of the new year.
The audience in the high school auditorium Tuesday evening, January 5, was made up of mostly district teachers wearing blue ICTA (Ichabod Crane Teachers’ Association) shirts and sweaters. The teachers’ last four-year contract expired in June and the two sides have not yet agreed to a new contract. About 100 teachers attended the meeting but made no comments or statement to the board.
School Superintendent George Zini did discuss staffing in his budget presentation to the board. He told the board, “We’ve had a considerable increase in staff.” He did point out that there had been a major decrease in staff when the district closed two elementary school buildings in 2011 due to a decrease in enrollment. “We’ve been able to put back the staffing we had lost,” he said.
But this year he said the district may have to keep the tax levy increase at 1% due to the way the state calculates the nominal 2% tax cap. He said a low tax levy increase could mean a gap in revenues of about $500,000 just to maintain the current programs and staffing.
“Right away we have a gap until we find out what our state aid is,” he told the board. He did stress that the administration’s numbers are preliminary and that the district does not expect to know anything more about state aid or tax cap numbers until February.
The meeting began with presentations from representatives from Questar III/BOCES. The district uses several Questar III programs, including special education and career training programs, as well as sending four students to Tech Valley High School.
The board also approved $7,500 for Middle School Expansion Study to look into reconfiguring the classes so that the district can put a universal Pre-K class through 2nd grade in the Primary School and move 3rd into to the Elementary/Middle School building.
Mr. Zini said that if the district made these changes it would not be for another five years, but he said it was important to have the study. “There is no way to find out if this is feasible unless we spend money,” he said.
“The real benefit here is having future space for universal Pre-K,” he said. The district currently offers one Pre-K class in the high school, which is provided through Questar III.
The next regular board meeting will be Tuesday, February 2 in the high school.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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