With little word from Albany opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget proposal Granville school officials have said they continue to prepare for the worst, including staffing cuts.
“We still need to cut personnel and programs by $600,000,” Superintendent Mark Bessen said Monday night.
At the regular meeting of the Granville Board of Education Bessen said after spending a day in Albany the previous week talking with legislators, he saw no indication the assembly will help school districts by pushing back against the Cuomo aid cuts.
At the same time others were visiting the capitol to voice their opposition to different cuts called for in the proposed budget, he said.
The difference between the appeals from neighborhood watch programs and city libraries versus schools came down to the future.
Bessen said education spending is what is needed to ready today’s youth to be tomorrow’s workers. “By shortfalling education, he’s shortfalling the growth of New York State,” Bessen said.
Although jobs are certain to be lost, the numbers will not be firm until the last possible moment.
“Personnel and academic cuts have not been decided yet. We have some ideas, but until things are resolved we don’t know; we want to make the move when we know what money we do and do not have,” Bessen said before the meeting.
“Reduction in force (RIF) letters will have to go out April 1 to comply with the (teachers) contract, but those notified will not necessarily lose their jobs. Just because they’re on the RIF list doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ones who are going,” Bessen said.
Bessen compared making staffing cuts at this point in the budget process to performing surgery with a blunt knife instead of a scalpel.
Waiting to decide personnel cuts will provide the district with the most flexibility when it comes to responding to the eventual final budget numbers for state aid, Bessen said; a decision which could be delayed by another late approval of the state budget.
“If nothing is done by Albany on the effects of this budget on high needs rural schools, the effect could be devastating,” Bessen said.
“The governor, by cutting aid for those schools in most desperate need for state aid, has created an Apartheid of schools,” Bessen said.
While wealthier districts across the state will not feel the effects of the governor’s cuts because they receive relatively little aid money as a percentage of the budget Bessen said rural high needs districts, like Granville, and others of the same economic strata will feel the cuts to a much greater degree.
“Any cuts to small rural schools are serious cuts that seriously effect what we’re trying to do for children,” Bessen said. The superintendent explained to the crowd of less than a dozen residents gathered Monday night the tax increase needed to offset cost increases for items from health insurance and retirement fund payments combined with the newly announced loss of additional state aid was 26 percent. “We’re not going to do that, so there have to be cuts,” Bessen said.
Facing such deep cuts in state aid, Bessen said the district will be looking to tap into the fund balance to mitigate any tax increase needed to offset the loss of state aid.
Athletic Director Mike Macura said he had reduced his portion of the budget about $26,000 or 11.28 percent when presenting the athletics portion of the budget.
“We were doing the five year replacement plan, that’s been suspended we’re going to pause the replacement program for better fiscal times; unless it’s safety (related) we’re not buying it,” Bessen said.
Presenting the technology portion of the budget technology director Dan Nelson told the board he was able to reduce his budget by 10.5 percent or $56,000.