Bessen: Cuts will not harm education

An on-time state budget did little to help close the budget gap in Granville and will lead to layoffs, district officials said.

Granville school district officials discovered the restored aid in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first budget will have little impact on the spending plan proposed by Superintendent Mark Bessen calling for 28 layoffs — 13 teachers and 15 members of the support staff. The tax increase will be two percent.

Bessen said the position cuts are not expected to have an impact on the quality of the education Granville students receive and will not affect course offerings such as advanced placement courses. After cuts at the elementary level over the past few years, the ripple effect is finally reaching the high school, Bessen said.

Impact will be felt in elbow room.

“We’re trying to protect a lot of our electives; there might be rollover with classes going from 16 to 20 or 22 average class size,” Bessen said.

However, the district is not expected to reduce offerings at this point. Next year could be a different story.

 “This year we’re going to be able to keep a lot of these things running, next year if we face the same fiscal crisis a lot of these things will be affected,” Bessen said.  

The budget plan Bessen and business manager Cathy Somich presented will go forward to the Board of Education April 11.

At that meeting the board could make adjustments to the budget plan before approving or rejecting it.

The previously announced Reduction in Force (RIF) cuts will be made final at that time.

Since the March 21 board meeting, Bessen said board members have been seeking input from the community regarding what they want to see in the 2011-2012 budget plan.

“The board members have been listening to the community and they’re supportive of the district doing what they have to do to get through this financial crisis which is a little different from what we heard at the meeting,” Bessen said.

“It’s a tough position to be in. You want to keep things the same, but on the other side of that there is a fiscal responsibility that has to be addressed by everyone – if you look at this as a mathematical formula, the cuts simple have to be made,” Bessen said.  

The budget plan calls for cutting of 28 positions, the use of $1 million in fund balance to fill the gap left by state aid, use of the newly restored state aid money and a tax levy increase of about two percent to get Granville through the next school year.

Reacting to the news of the just-released state aid runs Thursday afternoon, the superintendent was dissatisfied. Saving jobs became out of the question when the meager aid reinstatement was announced.   

 “There’s just not enough there,” Bessen said. “I’m disappointed. I was hoping that when they looked at the aid they would look at how it was affecting some schools when they gave something back.”

When the aid adjustment was examined it amounted to $91,071, Bessen said.

That number will not help rescue the jobs of any of the employees who received RIF notifications March 18, Bessen said.

Based on his initial examination of the information provided by the state, the aid run, it appeared New York State had tried to replace some of the aid taken from every school district versus targeting aid at those districts in the most urgent need of help like so many upstate including Granville, Bessen said.

Some of the districts across the state who needed aid replacement the least, got some money returned to their budgets for example Queensbury had aid money restored and its budget which was more than three times what Granville received.

“It’s like you’ve got an open wound and instead of getting a nice new bandage to put pressure on it somebody throws you an old towel; it’s better than nothing, but…” Bessen said.  

With the two percent school tax tax cap looming on the horizon and expected to be a reality for school districts come budget time next year, Bessen said the district was eyeing an increase of “no more than two percent” along with use of fund balance to bridge the funding gap created by the loss of $904,748 in state aid for this year part of $1.7 million total over two years.

“They really need to look at redoing the (aid) formula,” Bessen said.

Bessen said the restored funds would likely be used to help mitigate the tax impact of this year’s budget with an eye to next year and likely the year after that as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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