RCS freezes budget

Officials hope a wage freeze will follow

The Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District is steeling itself for budget season by adopting a budget freeze for the remainder of this school year, and will soon be taking up the issue of a wage freeze.

The freeze, approved in a split vote by the school board at a Tuesday, Feb. 15, meeting, suspends any field trips and equipment or materials purchases that were not already approved before the vote. Other non-essential spending like conferences or workshops were also put on hold. Activities funded entirely by grants will continue, and exceptions may be made through an administrative review.

The release of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget, in which state aid to RCS is slashed by about $2.4 million, prompted the budget freeze, said Superintendent Daniel Teplesky.

"Last year, RCS froze the budget in October, which returned a savings of approximately $100,000," he said. "Coming in February of this year, we look for a savings between $40,000 and $50,000."

A freeze won't close the district's budget gap, however. The decrease in aid coupled with rising pension costs and contractual salary increases are combining to create a situation that is putting schools across the state in a difficult position for next year.

Teplesky on Feb. 15 announced he would take a pay freeze in the coming year, and said he's going to implore Cuomo to change state law to allow districts to institute wage freezes for employees. Under existing laws, unions must voluntarily take a freeze.

Movements are underway in schools across the state to appeal to unions to make concessions, with varying results. Administrators often argue that this year, it's either wage freezes or massive layoffs.

"I agree with Gov. Cuomo, in the very difficult times we're in employees should move forward and say, yes, we should take a pay freeze," Teplesky said. "However, we're under contracts with all of our bargaining units."

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