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"We are at a very critical state right now because we are quite literally at the bottom of the barrel," Superintendent Michael Tebbano said.

In the past two budgets, the district has employed a three-tier system of cuts, selecting the least painful reductions first. The year's budget cuts included teaching positions and other programming changes.

"Right now our tiers have run out," Tebbano said. "We have a worst case scenario of worst case scenarios."

Assuming state aid is cut by $3.5 million (on the upper end of what is expected) and factoring in contractual raises and health and pension spending, the district could be facing a $5 million gap between revenues and expenditures next year, even after spending $2.8 million out of savings. That's considerably higher than predictions made a year ago for the 2010-11 budget.

Administrators have prepared a preliminary list of reductions that include 20 teaching positions, six staff positions, an administrator, cuts to the transportation and maintenance departments, special education cuts and a $150,000 cut to athletics that could be representative of the removal of all sub-varsity sport teams.

The teaching reductions would be partially covered by those taking retirement incentives, but it's likely there would be real layoffs as well.

Even in this doomsday scenario, the cuts would come up $2.7 million short of closing the gap. That represents a nearly 5 percent tax levy hike to cover the difference.

Despite reducing programming in the past two budgets, the district's expenses keep ballooning every year. That's a function of rising healthcare and pension costs, said district CFO Judith Kehoe, and revenues are falling at the same time.

"The dramatic changes that we're seeing are in our salaries and our benefits," she said. "It feels almost as if the bottom is falling out of the revenues we're dealing with."

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