two thousand twenty
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By John Addyman

   NEWARK (Mar 2 11) – When Bob Fogel did his second draft of the costs and expenditures for the 2011-12 school year in Newark, there was a $2.431 million gap between predicted expenses and expected revenues.
  Fogel, the assistant superintendent for business, went through the numbers tonight for the school board, which has scheduled another meeting for March 16 and will hold a public forum on either March 23 or 30. Community members are urged to attend that forum, with the date announced on the 16th.
   Discovering ways to increase revenue and reduce expenditures figures to be a stressful enterprise for the district in the next two months.
   “There is nothing that is not on the table, said Schools Superintendent Henry Hahn. Board Member Tom Ledbetter put things in a little more contrast.
   “Cutting sports, music, art, Kindergarten, eliminating positions, closing a building – these things are all on the table,” Ledbetter said. 

   On the expense side, the district expects salaries for the entire paid staff to rise 2.95 percent next year ($521,999), and that includes amounts factored in for work group contracts that are still in negotiation. Employee benefits will rise 11.7 percent ($920,511), and debt service will go up 14.4 percent ($494,480).
   Adding more pressure on the budget is the prediction of $1.9 million less in state aid, based on the governor’s budget. Hahn said getting the final number from the state was crucial to pegging the district’s costs.
   “We continue to advocate strongly and often that the funding for upstate schools, especially rural schools, has not been fairly or equitably distributed,” Hahn said. He told the board the major methods of bridging the gap between revenue and expenditures are to increase taxes, use fund reserves, and reduce expenditures.
   The district has $4.74 million in reserves in workers’ comp, unemployment insurance, liability, insurance and tax certiorari accounts. There may also be a fund balance remaining at the end of the school’s fiscal year.
   But Hahn warned that raiding the rainy-day fund balances is a pay-me-now-or-pay-me-later kind of thing. “Unless you have a plan to wean ourselves off of (using fund balances), all you’ve done is taken the pain away for one year, but doubling it the year after…in the years coming, you’ve used our savings account.”
   “This can’t be a one-year thing,” said Ledbetter. “We have to think long-term.”
   Hahn said he was often stopped as he ran errands in town and asked about the budget. Many of the popular ways of cutting dollars, he said, didn’t amount to much in the budget – for instance, all sports programs amount to just 1%, extracurricular activities 0.8% , materials and supplies 2.4%, professional development 0.2% and equipment 0.1%.
   “We’re not going to break this budget gap by taking away pencils and paper,” he said. Still, the district is looking for athletics cost reductions from the Wayne/Finger Lakes athletic league, will cut after-school activities with low enrollment, will reduce materials purchases by 10%, hold professional development to essential training only, and only replace essential equipment.
            Three Ways to Cut
   Hahn said there are three areas where the district can make cuts, in order. First, the district will decide staff allocation based on enrollment. That means fewer sections, fewer small classes…and fewer staff.
   Next come program modifications. A sensitive target includes Academic Intervention Services (AIS), a tutorial service. The team-teaching program at the middle school is targeted. Paraprofessional staff assignments will be based on “triage.” Duties for administrators will be re-examined.
   Third, Hahn described program reductions – closing Kindergarten is one option that the board balked at almost immediately. Some vocational education classes may go and anything in a non-mandated area is a target.
   He asked the school board for some direction. The board told him it wanted “scenarios,” complete with tax increases (starting at no increase), use of fund reserves, and staff and program reductions tied directly into what effect they would have on program and students.
   “I want to know what the impact of these cuts is going to be,” said Board Member Teresa Hurley. “I want to know how hard it will be for our students and staff to live with these reductions.”
   “I hope that conversation happens with parents, too,” said JoAnn Mincemoyer, from the audience. Nick Santini, also from the audience, urged the district to bargain for staff to pay more for their benefits to further reduce the gap.
   Fogel said if he is asked to prepare a budget without a tax increase of some kind, “the level of cuts we’ll have to make will be very deep.”
   Ledbetter asked Fogel if the suddenly rising cost of fuel had been factored into the budget calculations. Fogel said yes, to a degree, but if prices continue to rise for a year, he will have put too little into the energy-use categories.
   Board President Roberta Colacino was concerned about removing Kindergarten and AIS. “What will it cost us five, six or seven years from now if we don’t have them?” she asked. “Will kids need more AIS or professional services then?”
   Hurley suggested making all Kindergarten classes half-day. That would save, said Fogel, about $250,000. Ledbetter suggested that every full-time employee (FTE) be reduced by 10% -- everyone would essentially be part-timers. “No one would lose their job,” he said. “Instead of reducing the staff by 10%, everybody take a 10% reduction – everybody still gets their benefits and retirement and nobody is unemployed.”
   Fogel and Hahn will work through the budget scenarios the board requested and be back with them on March 16.


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  1. Anonymous Said,

    This stuff makes me sick as we give billions of dollars of kick backs to oil companies and the list goes on of corparate tax breaks. These same corps. Cut health care and wages of their employees .....We vote in tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. Defense spending out of control, of course the only job available for the middle class these days.

    Last year we gave a billion dollars to the egption military.

    Do not worry folks it is not the rich that worry about public school as they will provide experiences and education possiblities. Sad state of America as they use parties in america to divide us so we do not look at how corparations have taken over our gov.

    Also notice how handicapped kids never have cuts to the millions they cost schools, we spend less and less on gifted and average kids. We sure will not be leaders in the world in years to come.

    Posted on Thu Mar 03, 01:36:00 PM EST

  2. Gil Burgess Said,

    I do hesitate to ask, but, JUST FOR COMPARISON, how much would taxes have to be raised to cover the budget gap? ---And please don't respond unless you have the actual figure or if you're anonymous!

    Posted on Fri Mar 04, 11:02:00 AM EST

  3. Jim H. Said,

    To Gil Burgess,

    The answer to your question is about 17%. Every 1% hike in the tax levy equates to about $160,000.

    Posted on Mon Mar 07, 06:27:00 PM EST


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