A ‘very painful’ time

State aid cuts loom, drop in fuel helps

by Matt Rice

Anticipating receiving no increases in state aid for at least the next two years the Granville Board of Education began the first phase of budget discussions Monday night with reducing spending on their minds.

Superintendent Dan Teplesky began the discussions by telling the board the $323,000 cut to Granville’s state aid “looks like it will stand,” according to the latest word he had from Albany. Along with that any increases in state aid were unlikely over the next two years, he said.

Some good news came in the form of reduced fuel prices, prompting board member John Steves to remark that a news item on ‘60 Minutes’ from Sunday evening, relating how speculation had artificially driven fuel prices to that all time high, made him “About mad enough to throw a hammer through the TV.”

Teplesky said the district expected to budget $2.25 for fuel this year, rising to $2.50 and $2.75 over the three-year budget projection.

Teplesky said business manager Kathy Somich was preparing a listing of all fixed expenses including retirement contributions, salaries and benefits to help make the board aware of how much spending they must reduce to meet this financial hurdle.

Teplesky said he also planned for meetings with faculty and staff member to solicit ideas on how to make cuts to the budget during what he described as an upcoming “very painful time” for the district.

Buildings and grounds superintendent Brad Wood answered questions on the operations and maintenance portion of the budget, explaining why he spent what he spent and how he hoped to make cuts.

Board member Pam Tatko said the first thing Wood could do was ensure unnecessary devices were turned off when not in use. Tatko said she often sees lights turned on when no one is in an area, particularly at the high school.

“Who’s in the cafeteria now?” she asked, noting the light were on at that very moment.

“We’re going to try to get better with the lights,” Wood said.

Tatko said the district was simply paying too much for electricity, budgeting $215,450 in 2008-2009 and considering $220,480 for 2009-2010.

Board President Kathy Nelson added that she had seen computers left on over the holiday break, another bunch of electrical devices which could have been turned off to save money.

Wood said motion sensors for lights and newer, more efficient lights for the gymnasium were some of the cost-cutting measures he is considering, but said the most significant step would be adjusting students and employees to the habit of turning devices and room lights off when not in use.

“We’ve got to develop a system,” he said.

Board members questioned why custodial supplies had surged in cost, rising $5,880 in the last budget.

Wood said state-mandated ‘green’ requirements forced him to spend more money on supplies to meet those requirements. Wood said he planned to purchase some necessary equipment, a snow blower and a dump truck, only because they were essential. The dump truck he sought to replace, with a used vehicle, had deteriorated to the point it could no longer pass inspection and the snow blower needed for clearing the emergency exits space in the courtyard at Mary J. Tanner had broken before he began working in the district and not been replaced. 

Other cost-saving measures included not filling a custodial position budgeted for last year and keeping summer help at the same level, “We’re looking at a lot of different way to reduce because we know what’s coming,” Wood said.

All told Wood’s portion of the budget had been reduced by 7.25 percent, he said, with the largest portion of the reduction coming from the fall in the price of petroleum products such as fuel.

Without the reduction in fuel costs Wood said he budget had been reduced by about $35,000.

Bus routes and consolidation efforts have been his focus, transportation supervisor Bob Jones told the board, during his time. Both Nelson and board vice president Tamme Taran said they had heard of or seen themselves instances where drop-off points and pick up points could have been used.

Tatko asked what the district’s standard was for requiring students to walk to a pick up point. Jones said it was three quarters of a miles, considerably less than the state’s standard of three miles for a high school student and two miles for an elementary student.

Jones said he had managed last year to cut a bus route and continued to seek further consolidation, “It was the first thing I looked at,” he said.

“Just that one little change saved quite a lot,” he said.

Because the buses are needed for later routes provides an obstacle to the additional consolidation of bus routes, but a restructuring of the afternoon runs had also helped making routing more efficient. Jones said the buses sued to make the high school run in the afternoon and then all go to Mary J. Tanner and then into the village to Granville Elementary. Now, he said, he splits the buses with those to the south going into the village and the buses to the north going to Mary J. Tanner. 

Jones said he continued to cut costs by sharing services with other school districts when possible, “One hand washes the other and it works out really well,” he said.

Jones said his budget section had been reduced by 7.75 percent for the projected 2009-2010 draft budget.

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