Board adopts budget for May 20 vote
By Pamela Doan
At a solemn meeting on Tuesday (April 22) the Haldane Board of Education faced the fact that their budget gap will have to be closed for the first time by reducing staff positions. After months of looking for alternatives, the only way they’ve found to close the nearly $200,000 difference between revenues and expenditures for the 2014-15 school year is to cut one teaching position and two teacher assistant positions. The board adopted the proposed budget with a total spending plan of $22,405,488.
Voters will be asked to approve the school budget on May 20 and if approved, the tax levy for the district will be 1.09 percent, the amount allowed by the state tax levy rate formula. The public is invited to attend a public hearing on May 6 to review and comment on the budget prior to the vote. However, the approved budget will remain in place for the May 20 vote.
Since school districts are mandated to have a certain number of teachers in core subjects like English, mathematics and science, the affected positions will be in non-mandated subjects like art and music. At a previous meeting, Interim Superintendent John Chambers stated that cuts to any other programs, like field trips, athletics, or staff development, don’t add up to the savings that are necessary.
Also, Haldane is eliminating an additional teaching position for the large fourth grade class, reducing a consumer science teaching position to part-time, and opting into a program that will allow the district to save on next year’s interest rates for the Teacher’s Retirement System. The stable contribution option for the TRS offers school districts the option of paying over a seven-year period instead of all at once. While the board expressed reluctance at “kicking the can down the road,” the TRS stable contribution option saves $300,000 from next year’s budget.
The budget presentation from Chambers and Business Manager Anne Dinio reviewed material and figures that have been reviewed at previous meetings since the process began in February. Those materials are available on the district’s website and have been covered in Philipstown.info/The Paper articles.
At the May 6 Board of Education meeting, Chambers will present the plan for which positions will be impacted. Staff whose jobs will be eliminated will be notified by April 30. “This is obviously upsetting,” Chambers said. “We aren’t sure what the impact on student offerings will be. We do hope that the reduction might be restored.”
While additional aid from the state is highly unlikely, the district is still in contract negotiations with the Haldane Faculty Association, which includes compensation. “Should we be able to reach an agreement that does not include everything that is in this budget, that might be a way to restore positions, as well,” Chambers continued.
Only one parent was present at the meeting to make a case for finding other areas in the budget to cut, asking the board to keep arts and music programs intact. Board President Gillian Thorpe responded: “We’ve managed to save them over the last several years. I value those programs so much and that’s why no matter what we consider, it’s going to hurt someone. We started out to save every program, but we just don’t have any money. My frustration is with the state and what they’ve done to us.”