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State grants reward Schalmont, B-P districts for fiscal prudence

Friday, March 8, 2013
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— Broadalbin-Perth and Schalmont are among 12 school districts statewide to receive a total of $9 million in efficiency grants, Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally announced Friday.

The grants were awarded to districts that have implemented cost-saving measures in areas such as transportation, maintenance staff and administrative support, while improving or maintaining student achievement.

The Broadalbin-Perth Central School District was awarded $525,831 over three years for identifying a total of $584,257 in eligible cost-savings by reducing transportation expenses, including eliminating a bus route and associated administrative and maintenance costs; revising the district’s health insurance coverage and adopting a lower-cost health insurance plan for teachers and retirees; and reducing district energy use.

Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said the district appreciated the grant funding and the recognition of its efforts to become more efficient.

Among the changes the district made was to renegotiate its employee contracts to switch to a more cost-effective, higher-deductible health insurance plan.

School officials have also been aggressive in efforts to save on energy costs, according to Tomlinson. They lowered the thermostat in all buildings and asked staff members to dress more warmly, and the district is now burning less oil than four years ago. The district also applied for and received a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to install more energy-efficient heaters in buses, which also saved money.

“We’ve been taking advantage of all of the opportunities that are out there,” he said.

The half-million dollars the district is getting will go to purchase instructional technology including iPads and SmartBoards. This money will be used in conjunction with another $465,832 grant the district received to allow the district to add programs in science, technology, engineering and math.

Through these savings, Tomlinson said, the district has been able to avoid massive reductions to programs.

“We’re an example of a district that through prioritizing and through becoming more efficient, you can actually grow at a time when money’s not there,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Capital Region, the Schalmont Central School District was awarded $250,140 over the next three years for its efforts to save $277,933 by using less energy through closing schools and identifying unused space as well as consolidating central office administrative responsibilities and positions.

Superintendent Carol Pallas said the district found out in December that it was receiving the money. The district got $83,000 this year, and it is eligible for two more years of funding as long as it submits information to the state saying how the funds are being used to improve education.

The district is using the money for professional development for teachers on how to create new lesson plans based on the new Common Core curriculum, according to Pallas. A teacher has been reassigned to train colleagues for this school year.

At the end of the 2010-11 school year, Schalmont closed the Woestina and Jefferson elementary schools, which had roughly 100 students each, for a total savings of about $1.3 million. The district cut a total of 49 full-time-equivalent positions during the past three budget years and has eliminated 13 administrative and support positions in the central office.

Pallas, who started work in January, has credited predecessor Valerie Kelsey and the Schalmont Board of Education for making the tough decisions that helped put the district on solid financial footing.

The only other school district in the Capital Region to receive funds was the Schodack Central School District, which was awarded $298,761 over three years for identifying a total of $331,956 in eligible cost savings. It consolidated central office positions and saved energy by installing solar panels on school buildings and the bus garage.

Cuomo praised the districts for becoming more efficient in a news release.

“Our education system must become more efficient and direct spending away from the bureaucracy into the classroom,” Cuomo said. “The twelve districts we are awarding today stand out as leading examples and will serve as models for other districts across the state.”

 
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