With the vote just a week away, the Whitehall Board of Education gave its final pitch for the 2009-10 budget this week.
“Our goal in the face of recession and everything that has been going on with the state was to keep this at a zero percent increase,” school Superintendent James Watson said Monday. “I think that this is a budget that keeps the costs down while maintaining academic standards.”
“It was a little chaotic with the state of the economy and the governor’s budget,” said school business manager Jodi Bradshaw. “This was my first budget process with the school, and I was impressed with the Board of Education and the administration in how they worked to keep the costs down while keeping the academics.”
The budget, which was adopted by the school board at its March 23 meeting, calls for a freeze in revenues, keeping the total cost at $13,656,521. With a decrease of $55,000 in state aid, the school transferred and added $55,000 (up from $300,000 in 2008-09 to $355,000 in 2009-10) from its fund balance to also keep the amount to be raised by taxes level at $4,829,164.
In order to cut costs, the school made several cuts, including a reduction of 3.6 full-time teachers, eight teacher aides, the elimination of school safety officer, a decrease to the fuel and electrical budgets, suspending membership in the New York School Board Association, the elimination of the computer lab stipend, and the discontinuation of an annual contribution to the Whitehall Recreation Department.
At the Monday meeting, a resident asked what impact the elimination of the safety officer would have at the school.
“Who is going to assume the responsibilities of the safety officer once the position is gone?” asked Matthew Keough.
“We have been looking at the enrollment numbers and the duplication of services,” said Watson. “We have had Mr. Gregg Chappell here for the past two years and we feel that there are things that the safety officer does that Mr. Chappell (AIS dean of students) can do. The rest of the things we would be looking to incorporate between Mr. Chappell and Mrs. (Kelly) McHugh (high school principal).”
Major increases to the budget included an $8,250 increase to help pay for the school-based health program, which is run through Glens Falls Hospital, and an increase of $199,171 in employee benefits.
“That is always a big part of the equation,” said Bradshaw.
Along with the budget, there will also be three propositions for the school district residents to vote on, the first being the approval to spend $184,000 to purchase two new school buses.
“We expect next year that the price of buses will increase about $10,000 due to new emissions standards,” said Bradshaw.
The second proposition would allow the school board to transfer $525,000 to the Capital Project Reserve fund for future improvement to the infrastructure, which may include the renovation of the junior/senior high school gymnasium.
The third would allow the board to donate $15,000 to the Whitehall Free Library.
“While the first two will not have an impact on the tax rates or the budget, the library donation would change the rate by .31-percent,” said Watson.
Watson added that the school is still awaiting word as to how the Federal Stimulus Package may affect the school’s revenues.
“We have still not determined what that will mean to us,” said Watson. “Whatever we receive, we would be looking to use it for one-shot types of items that will not be a continuing expense on the budget because within two years, that money will most likely be going away.”
The 2009-10 school budget vote will be held on Tuesday, May 19, from noon until 9 p.m. in the large group instruction room at the junior/senior high school.