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No surprise, but it still hurts

Voters in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk School District rejected the district's budget last May, and the district is now running off a contingency budget. A 14 percent hit to its aid numbers ($2.4 million) does not portend an easier year.

"It's drastic and it's devastating," said Superintendent Daniel Teplesky.

The district is looking to the community for recommendations on what to cut from the program. A survey will be made available on the district web site in coming days.

"We're going to ask some further, in-depth questions and ask individuals to make some determinations on what they believe is more important," Teplesky said.

Mandate relief a common plea

School districts draw their revenues from two sources: state aid and property taxes. If aid falls off then taxes must increase or expenditures must be drawn down " it's a simple budgeting principle.

But a cry that's increasingly being heard from schools is that it's difficult to cut costs under a blanket of about 220 state mandates that require schools to meet various criteria, sometimes at great expense to benefit a small number of students.

"There are so many areas of out spending plan over which we have no control," said Wiles. "Every year additional rules and requirements are piled on without the resources to pay for them...it's really all quite unpalatable."

Tebbano estimated unfunded mandates account for 20 percent of BC's $90 million budget.

The tax cap cometh?

Mandates are a hot topic when considering another recent educational development: the passingof tax cap legislation in the state Senate.

The Senate passed a plan by a wide margin on Monday, Jan. 31. It would limit schools' tax levy growth to 2 percent per year, or to the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. Downstate Democrats were the only contingent of lawmakers to oppose the bill.

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