Schalmont budget cuts come into focus

Even with two school closings, $700,000 in cuts proposed

Two schools will be closed in the Schalmont Central School District next year, but there are still cuts needed in the budget to reach a 2 percent tax increase, according to Superintendent Valerie Kelsey.

Kelsey is proposing an additional $700,000 in cuts to the district, which would result in a $41.65 million budget for 2011-12. While the two school closings resulted in nearly two-thirds of the $2 million in proposed cuts, remaining reductions could include three administrative positions and 21 full-time equivalent support and teaching staff members. The school board also voted Feb. 28 to eliminate the principals of Mariaville and Woestina elementary schools, the schools that will be closed.

By closing two schools, plus declining enrollment, we have had minimal cuts in programs for children, said Kelsey. "We had talked a lot about paying for brick and mortar as opposed to being more efficient and that is helping us a lot now to keep programs."

State aid reduced for the district by $1.1 million and mandated costs continue to increase, which include $765,000 for employee salaries and health insurance, employee retirement costs increasing $265,000 and teacher retirement costs raising nearly the same at $270,000. The reductions in aid and increased cost ultimately led the board to close the schools and try to maintain programs.

"Had we not reached the decision at the end of the year to close the two other schools, we might have been talking about significant changes to the programs," said Board of Education President Kevin Thompson. "We seem to be able to preserve most of the programs that are currently being offered to our students with some exceptions. The negative aspect of it would be the fact that approximately 25 positions would be eliminated as part of this budget, so that concerns everybody."

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