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RCS faces $700k budget gap

District wrestling with setting a reasonable tax increase

— Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District officials are projecting a more than $700,000 budget gap for the 2013-14 school year.

RCS Superintendent Alan McCartney said the district is trying to estimate an appropriate tax levy increase that would help balance the budget but not be too much of a burden on residents.

Last year, the district opted to challenge the state tax cap. Voters passed a $41.7 million budget with a 1.7 percent decrease in spending year-to-year, but a 6.8 percent levy increase. The budget included a temporary pay freeze for teachers and the superintendent, the reduction of 6 teaching and full-time staff positions, the loss of a principal, reductions to extracurricular activities and the loss of some bus runs.

McCartney said he is unsure if residents would be willing to challenge the tax cap for a second year.

“It might depend a lot upon what the tax rate is versus the levy,” he said. “If we can keep it lower, residents might go for an increase.”

Officials are projecting a $712,361 shortfall if the tax levy increase is kept at 2 percent. Right now, the district is looking at what further reductions could be made in order to cut back spending. McCartney said there would most likely be a reduction of 15.5 teaching positions, but many will come from attrition and reorganization of programs.

“We’re trying to maintain the number of classes, continue support services for students and provide adequate busing,” he said.

Like many other districts across the state, McCartney placed blame for the budget gap on unfunded state mandates and unreliable state aid. He said RCS has lost about $11 million to the state’s reduction of Gap Elimination Adjustment funds and with that money, the district would not be in the difficult situation.

McCartney said the district is trying to avoid dipping into reserve funds to continue paying the bills over the summer and plans on working harder to seek out grants in the coming school year. They also plan to bond for some smaller projects in order to obtain state building aid to help make repairs to infrastructure.

The superintendent said his fear is support staff for students will have to be cut in order to keep core classes intact. He said there is already a plan in place to reduce some psychologist positions.

“And that’s the problem, because we are heading to a reading, writing and arithmetic schedule,” he said. “But the state doesn’t want to see what is happening and we still have mandates to be met.”

The next budget meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19. The budget vote is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21.

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