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Guilderlands schools face $3.3M budget gap

District kicks off budgeting with a community conversation

— Guilderland community members gathered for a “Community Conversation” at the Guilderland High School on Tuesday, Jan. 17, and about 40 citizens showed out to talk principally about the school district’s budget outlook.

Participants had the opportunity to discuss several essential questions related to possible areas of change and innovation in the years ahead, including scheduling, technology, leadership structure and data-driven budgeting.

Superintendent Marie Wiles gave a brief presentation on the current state of the district. She explained that in a time of scarce resources the district must be innovative to continue to provide students with the best education.

“Data-driven budgeting is to not start with the present school structure and determine what can be cut, but it starts with what students need and building up the required structure,” Wiles said.

Neil Sanders, superintendent for business, provided the details on how the economy and the new property tax cap affects the budget process.

The new state property tax cap would hold Guilderland to increasing the tax levy as maximum of 2.5 percent in the next budget, without a supermajority of voters overriding the cap. Even increasing the tax levy by the full allowable amount would leave the district short of its projected expenses for next year, meaning cuts will likely have to be made.

“The slow economic recovery, federal and state budget deficits, legacy costs for pensions, among other economic issues, result in a school budget deficit for 2012-13 of $3.3 million,” said Sanders.

Wiles also spoke generally of the district’s aim to not ignore technology in the midst of this grim projection.

“Technology can provide access to recourses, academic and professional, beyond the walls of school building. We cannot afford to let our infrastructure become antiquated,” said Wiles.

The district is also considering changing the school day schedule in hopes of maximizing interaction between students and teachers, and possibly save money in the meantime.

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