Saratoga school districts face tough choices

Still, it's unlikely that these changes will even come close to making up for the proposed $1.6 million aid reduction for BH-BL.

At nearby Shenendehowa School District, officials took action to cap areas of this year's budget before Paterson even released his budget. By cutting back spending on non-essential items like meals, supplies and conference attendance, the district hopes to spend $4 million less than planned, bringing this year's budget to $141.7 million.

But that won't be enough in savings, and officials are looking for creative ways to avoid passing the burden on to the taxpayer.

"The assistance from the state probably won't be there, and the times are such that to ask the taxpayer to do more would be a false reality," said Shenendehowa Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson. "It's really forcing us to hearken back to our primary purpose for the school district," which is educating students.

The district is looking at surrounding municipalities to ensure there is no overlapping of services on everything from road and grounds maintenance to emergency response.

Resident and staff suggestions are also being encouraged.

Officials at the Ballston Spa School District are not yet talking about specifics in their budget, but a proposed 16 percent reduction in school aid would result in the loss of more than $4 million in revenue, a gap that will be difficult to close.

"In the shell game of shifting state share and county share, the bottom line is that the burden still will fall on the local taxpayer," said Superintendent Joseph Dragone, in a statement.

Like other schools, Ballston Spa instituted a spending freeze late last year and hopes to reap $200,000 in savings.

"Not knowing what was going to come for the rest of the year, the superintendent instructed people to withhold from any budget requests and spending any money that was not absolutely necessary," said district spokesman Stuart Williams.

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