Schools take steps to cut costs

School officials across the state are waiting to hear the outcome of Gov. David Paterson's proposed state aid cuts, which he announced in mid-November as part of an effort to relieve the state's looming deficit.

In the face of that news, area school officials are preparing for the financially difficult times that lay ahead. Mohonasen Central School District, Niskayuna Central School District and Schalmont Central School district are working to put plans in place to minimize the impact of state belt-tightening.

As you are aware, we are facing a very difficult financial picture at the national and state level. Local school districts are not immune from what happens on Wall Street or in Washington since schools are largely dependent upon aid from state and federal sources. Wall Street generates the single largest tax revenue for New York state, said Kevin Baughman, superintendent of the Niskayuna Central School District, in a written statement.

District superintendents, board of education members, faculty and staff had already begun preparing for the tough economic times ahead, but Paterson's Nov. 12 announcement that cuts could come within the school year, made officials take their plans to the next level.

While the three school districts are using many of the same cost-saving tactics, they are also coming up with their own strategies. All three agree, however, that they will do everything in their power to maintain the quality of education that they have always provided.

"The board has thought about priorities in general -- this is kind of more of an exercise of thinking about what's important to the board and community," said Valerie Kelsey, superintendent of Schalmont Central School District.

Schalmont Central School District already participates in a countywide purchasing consortium for savings on bus parts, cafeteria food and supplies, paper, and trash removal. The district has implemented an energy savings program in all five buildings, and has reviewed bus routes for efficiency, resulting in a cut of more than 360 miles for the 2008-2009 school year, among other cost-saving measures.

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