A total of eight positions were removed from the Whitehall Central School budget on Monday.
The school board of education voted on Feb. 23 to cut one full-time elementary school teacher position, a full-time special education teacher position, three full-time teacher aide positions, five full-time substitute teacher aide positions working in the district and the position of school safety officer.
“If each of those four were enacted, it would further reduce tax levy to 5.81 percent,” said school superintendent James Watson. “And we still are protecting the integrity of our program.”
Watson said that preliminary plans for the cuts included the elimination of three elementary school teaching positions, but that the school would wait to see what they would receive in revenues and state aid before making any further cuts.
“We are retaining two of the three teachers and we will see where our revenues are going as we head into the month of March,” said Watson. “We do not want to act in haste and then find out that we made a rush to judgment if we eliminated these positions.”
The elimination of the 11 positions in the school system would bring with it an expected $194,000 in savings. The elimination of the combined eight teacher aide positions would save the school $48,000, with the special education position saving $71,000, the elementary teaching position saving $55,000 and the public safety officer saving $20,000.
Along with the cuts passed by the board, Watson said that the school is looking into more areas for cuts, including the elimination of the elementary and secondary intramural programs and reducing or eliminating the school’s annual contribution to the Whitehall Recreation Committee.
“We are also looking at $28,000 in savings with a teacher retirement in the math department, where we would have a difference between what we are currently paying that position and what we would pay the new teacher,” said Watson. “I was also advised that we may have a savings with a retirement in the science department. You do the totals on each of those and that is another $131,000 in savings.”
Watson said that the school also anticipated a $52,000 increase in revenues and was awaiting word from Albany as to how federal aid was to be distributed. Because of that, Watson said that he wanted to wait before recommending any further cuts.
“I would put these on hold to wait to see what the state does in terms of revenue,” said Watson. “We have made these cuts now and this gets us to where we are below a six-percent increase to the tax levy. That’s where we are as of quarter of three this afternoon. Since last week, our discussions have probably changed about three times since.”
Chris Palmer, head of the Whitehall Teachers Organization, said that they were concerned that the administration makes sure any cuts did not hurt the integrity of the school’s academic program.
“The concern that we share with the school board is in presenting a balanced budget to the community as well as having a highly qualified staff,” said Palmer.
School board president Jim Huntington said that the administration and board were not taking anything lightly.
“As you can see a lot goes into this process, especially at this time,” said Huntington.
All proposed cuts were passed unanimously by the school board and will take effect as of June 30.