BURNT HILLS: School budget ready for polls

In March, the board went out to obtain input from the stakeholders " members of the community. The superintendent's recommended version of the budget was put before community forums for review by parents, residents and staff for their thoughts and recommendations.

At the first public forum in early March, about 30 residents, primarily parents of children in the schools, showed up to comment and give their list of high priority items. Among the district goals supported by the parents are keeping small classroom sizes, supporting sports and special education, and building the district's fund balance for emergency expenses.

Unexpected windfall

Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed consolidating a number of school aid formulas into a new category called "Foundation Aid" and wanted to give all school districts at least a 3 percent increase in this aid. On April 1, the board of education learned the district will receive a 3.8 percent increase in Foundation Aid. The last step in the board's budget discussion was deciding to apply this final 0.8 percent aid increase to reducing taxes this September and adding to the fund balance. This move improves the district's ability to manage its finances.

The newfound funds, totaling $444,000 in state aid, will also allow the district to:

Restore the two elementary teaching positions that were cut from the current year's budget. Only one of these would result in a net cost increase of $42,000. The second position will be funded by reallocating monies from the 2006-07 temporary teacher assistant solution to class size concerns.

Hire an additional half-time special education teacher for $26,000 to provide mandated service to disabled pupils.

Add $6,000 for after-school supervision of pupils using the high school's popular and often crowded fitness center. This is a student safety priority.

Hire a teacher assistant for $23,900 to work with 7th and 8th graders most at risk of not meeting state testing standards.

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