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Niskayuna School District begins budget talks

Kevin Baughman, superintendent of schools for Niskayuna, addressed the Board of Education Monday, Jan. 12, with somber news about Gov. David Paterson's proposed 2009-2010 budget.

He told the board that facing a projected state budget deficit of $15 billion, the governor proposes a one-time 'deficit reduction assessment,' reducing school aid by $698 million next year.

According to Bachman, school aid for Niskayuna schools would be reduced by 3.3 percent to $20.7 million. Paterson's proposal for next year is down $2.5 billion from what the state promised when implementing the foundation formula two years ago.

"In Niskayuna, the governor's aid proposal would be $12,936,255, which factors in a new deduction for preschool special education [of $95,000]. The reduction would be $1,947,198, from the aid projected for 2009-2010 under current state aid formulas, or an actual decrease of 14.4 percent," said Baughman.

Discussing the extent of the reduction, Baughman said that Paterson's proposed 2009-2010 budget includes deficit reductions ranging from 3 percent to 13 percent on state aid.

Baughman said that Paterson mentioned that nearly nine in 10 schools have reserve funds to cover the proposed loss in state aid. He said that assuming schools use those reserve funds, if they are depleted in the first year of what is projected to be a multi-year problem, districts will be forced to "make significant program and staff reductions in subsequent years."

This affects Niskayuna schools specifically because if they use their unreserved, unappropriated fund balance to offset the governor's proposed reduction, it would still require the district to reduce expenses approaching $1 million. The district would be depleted of funds for future emergencies and would be forced to borrow money each year due to lack of cash flow. There would also be "little if any reserve funds" for the coming difficult budget years.

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