Budget deadline extended to April 22
By Pamela Doan
“This has been the most depressing meeting,” said Haldane Board President Gillian Thorpe, as she wrapped up the April 8 budget discussion. Unable to approve a budget by their own self-imposed deadline, the board had to move the deadline to April 22 to give Interim Superintendent John Chambers and Business Manager Anne Dinio more time to work out plans to cut an additional $176,543 from expenditures. The board must approve a budget on April 22 to meet the requirements for the May 20 vote.
The five trustees agreed with previous recommendations to cut the additional class for the large fourth grade, reduce a Consumer Science position, and participate in the Teachers Retirement System stable contribution option. The TRS stable contribution allows the district to pay the interest over time rather than in the year it is due and results in the most significant savings of all the options the board has reviewed. State aid will contribute $82,206 to the deficit. These measures only account for $436,000 of the nearly $700,000 deficit, though. Now the board has moved to the list of their “undesirable” cuts to make up the balance.
Among the options discussed, including reductions in athletics, staff development, extra-curricular activities, and supplies, none would add up to the significant amount that is needed to balance the budget, said Chambers. Thorpe commented, “We’ve run out of options.” Non-mandated programs and the staff involved will be reviewed for reductions.
At the April 22 meeting, the board will review a recommendation to cut one teacher from a non-mandated program and three teacher’s assistants, which could increase class sizes. Currently class sizes are in the low to mid 20s, depending on the grade level, with smaller classes in the lower grades.
Non-mandated programs are classes like art and music. There are six teacher’s assistants working in the district and three will be affected. Assistants have higher credentials than aides and can help instruct and supervise the classroom. Staff reductions will follow the union contract and proceed by seniority within a program area.
All involved expressed frustration and anger toward the state legislature for the cuts. The money that the district lost to the Gap Elimination Adjustment amounts to about $350,000, which as Chambers pointed out, “would allow the district to pass a budget possibly without any tax levy.” The GEA is a measure imposed in Albany reducing school funding to close the state budget gap and is a major source of contention by districts statewide.