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Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake CSD seeks to close budget gap

Other budget modifications include reducing library services, holding off on new uniforms for sports teams, replacing bowling with snowshoeing and cross country skiing for physical education classes and increasing fees for community sports.

The changes were identified after speaking with staff across the district and garnering suggestions from the public. Those attending Thursday's budget forum were able to fill out comment forms, which can also be completed at the district's Web site: www.bhbl.org.

Cost cutting measures are already under way at the district's five schools, including freezes on discretionary spending, an evaluation of open positions and efforts to reduce energy bills by turning off lights and lowering the thermostat.

Some of the roughly 100 people gathered at Thursday's forum suggested that district employees should take pay cuts to help maintain programming. Though that is not always possible, Schultz indicated that the district will be sitting down with collective bargaining units this month, and the possibility of drawing up new contracts with some employees for next year's budget is a possibility.

"Some of those suggestions aren't the best way to accomplish a long-term fiscal response," said Schultz. "The foundation on which this plan is built is that we're not looking for a one-year fix."

An unknown part of the budgeting puzzle is the federal economic recovery package, which has assistance for schools as one of its components. That money is to be doled out by the state, however, and if Gov. David Paterson and lawmakers can't come to a consensus soon on exactly how much state aid to each district is going to be impacted in the 2009-2010 budget, it might be too late for schools to plan for it.

"This really puts school districts in a tough position, because we're going out to our taxpayers not knowing," said Assistant Superintendent Jacqueline St. Onge.

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