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Elementary school principal position among NY Mills school cuts

"Tough times and tough decisions."

That's how Todd Cameron, Superintendent of Schools in New York Mills, describes the budget situation after presenting the first draft of proposed budget cuts to the school board Monday.

The general fund reductions and containment in this initial proposal total $440,000 cut from the 2009-10 budget. According to the first reading presented Monday by Cameron, the proposed reductions are administration, district office staff, elementary school office, maintenance staff, supervisor salary reductions, as well as full-time teacher positions.

"This is serious business when you start looking at reductions of this magnitude," Cameron said. "No one likes to make these kinds of reductions. I could blame the state and our legislators for the lack of funding public education and all the unfunded mandates imposed on our schools, but that doesn't help the situation today. This is really a sad time for public education and our local school.

At the top of the list is to cut the elementary school principal position, at a savings of $80,000. The plan also calls for the reduction of one full-time bookkeeper/payroll position in the district office, totaling $40,000. Cutting the elementary secretary position will also reduce the budget by $30,000. Four full-time equivalency teacher positions totaling approximately $200,000 would also be eliminated with the proposed cuts.

The reduction of 4.0 teacher positions include: 1.0 Elementary Science; 1.0 Early Intervention Reading; .5 Media Specialist; .5 Math; .5 English; and .5 Social Studies. This list of reductions is not inclusive and may change based on licensure, seniority, and district needs.

The above administrative and teacher cuts total an estimated $350,000 of the total proposed $440,000 in cuts.

Other cuts and budget reductions included in Monday's first reading proposal are to reduce 1.0 custodial position through reassignment ($15,000); 10 percent reduction in supervisor/confidential staff salaries ($30,000); 1 percent staff development from the teacher's union back to the general fund ($45,000).

Cameron presented the figures to the board Monday, saying the cuts are based on a projected decline in enrollment and expenditures exceeding revenues.

The estimate is based on current salaries and does not necessarily reflect individual employees, but an estimate of annual salaries for full and part-time employees.

The final decision on the amount and the positions to be reduced will be made at the March 23 board meeting. Additional reductions or additions may occur this summer depending upon the federal or state government allocations to schools. This information may not be known until June or later, according to Cameron.

Board member Rachel Grieger earlier in the meeting, when the board approved the paying of bills for the month, helped put things in perspective and commented it costs the district $873 a day in heating, water, sewer, and electricity to run the building.

The district is looking at a nearly $150,000 budget shortfall next year. The administration and board has been working the last few years toward building up a $300,000 fund balance, which could be the case if the board approves the proposed $440,000 in cuts. A couple years ago the district was considering adding all day every day kindergarten and the board made the decision not to because of the projected low fund balance. The district added the program the following year because the financial resources were there.

The school board and administration over the past few years has been working toward maintaining a minimum of $300,000 in reserve. Cameron said the idea of carrying a $300,000 fund balance is to have money available to cover unforseen costs, as well as capital and facilities improvements.

"In my opinion, having $300,000 in reserve for unforeseen situations like replacing a boiler or to add a new program is wise planning," Cameron said.

What's missing from the proposed plan presented Monday are cuts to extra and co-curricular activities. Things like sports, FFA, band, etc. are the things Cameron calls, "And more...", which the district offers students that go beyond the classroom.

Since announcing the projected budget shortfall last fall, administrators and board members have held several meetings, staff meetings, and board workshops to discuss the budget situation for 2009-10.

For the 2008-09 school year, general fund revenue is estimated at $6,265,493. Expenditures are estimated to be $6,418,352. Total revenue to expenditures, including the food service fund, community service fund, building construction, and debt redemption are $7,392,028 in revenue and $7,873,332 in expenditures. Included in these figures is $275,000 in building construction.

Projected budget revenues for 2009-10 are $6,072,639, with projected expenditures of $6,285,971. On June 30, 2008 the district had an unreserved fund balance of $229,620. The projected fund balance for June 30, 2009 is $76,761. And the projected fund balance on June 30, 2010 is $136,571.

There were no visitors' comments or questions at Monday's meeting. The board did not discuss the proposed reductions and containments after Cameron presented the numbers.

"I'm confident in our school board and our community, because I know that we can work through this difficult time," Cameron commented. "We have excellent teachers, administrators, and support staff who care a great deal about children and education. Every day is a new day with a promise of better things to come."

"I believe in the future of children," Cameron continued. Afterall, that is why we are the New York Mills Public School."

A special school board meeting to discuss the budget cuts further will be held March 9, 6 p.m., in the performing arts center. The administration and board would like to remind visitors attending the meeting if they wish to address the board there are proper procedures to do so and visitors must sign up prior to the start of the meeting. The final decision on the budget cuts will be made at the March 23 board meeting.

Anyone interested in more information about the budget reductions, projected and historical fund balances, student enrollment, and budget cuts made last year, should go to