Haldane Budget Cycle Gets Underway

Superintendent interviews slated

By Michael Turton

The Haldane Central School District’s 2014-15 budget cycle got underway as trustees approved the schedule for determining next year’s spending plan at their Tuesday (Dec. 3) meeting. The lengthy process will culminate when district taxpayers go to the polls to vote “yes” or “no” on the proposed plan as part of a May 20, 2014, referendum. In the interim, administrators, elected officials and the public can look forward to a continuous stream of meetings aimed at drafting a document that keeps spending within the state mandated cap.

Voters approved total spending of $22,345,120 for 2013-14. Business Manager Anne Dinio also presented the “rollover budget” which includes all known expenditures for next year with total spending of $22,982, 672. Administrators and trustees were cautiously optimistic about the 2.85 percent increase. “There are still a lot of unknowns … but it’s a better starting point than last year,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Villanti said. State aid, the BOCES budget and open contracts are three factors that he said could still have significant impacts on spending. The district is currently in contract negotiations with its teachers and support staff.

“Wages continue to be an increasingly large percentage of the budget,” Vice President Peter Henderson said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us … but it’s nice to see the preliminary numbers look not so scary…”

Affordable Care Act may impact budget

Mike Lambert, the district’s attorney, briefly summarized another factor that could affect spending – the Affordable Care Act. The most serious provision that he underlined is the district’s obligation under the legislation to offer healthcare coverage to 95 percent of its full-time employees. Full time is defined as working 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month. If the district fails to meet the 95 percent standard it would face annual penalties of $280,000.

Superintendent search focuses on five candidates

President Gillian Thorpe reported that interviews will begin in January as the search continues to replace Mark Villanti as superintendent of schools. Villanti will retire in January and the district recently hired John Chambers to serve as interim superintendent until the end of the school year. Thorpe told The Paper that one candidate is a woman; three have experience as superintendents and two have worked as assistant superintendents.

Entire community feels loss

Thorpe’s remarks at the outset of the meeting were yet another indication of the widespread impact Jim Lovell’s death in the Dec 1. Metro-North train crash is having on local residents. “On Sunday we lost a great man. It’s being felt by the entire community,” she said. “The outpouring of support … has been amazing … a testament to the kind of man he was. I know I’m going to miss him.” Thorpe said that seniors at Haldane took food to Lovell’s family and that staff members have contributed funds to pay the cost of school trips to be taken during the academic year by Jim’s sons – Jack, a sophomore, and Finn, a senior. Villanti, who had very recently spent time with Lovell at a Haldane soccer game said, “I’m inspired by his life … that’s what I’m taking from this.”

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