Saratoga County

Shen budget a work in progress

More details on the specifics of the proposed $146.1 million Shenendehowa Central School District 20

More details on the specifics of the proposed $146.1 million Shenendehowa Central School District 2008-09 budget were released Tuesday night at a Board of Education study session, while few members of the public showed up to give their views on the draft spending plan.

As it stands now, the budget, which goes to the polls May 20, represents an increase of $8.2 million, or 5.9 percent, over last year’s budget of $138 million that increased taxes 5.1 percent.

A four-page outline handed out to the audience in the Gowana School library itemized the major expenses and revenues anticipated for the next school year. The lion’s share of costs is for instructional salaries, weighing in at 34.32 percent of the overall budget, followed by benefits at 22.09 percent and non-instructional salaries at 16.26 percent. Other expenses, including textbooks, at .53 percent of the total budget, and equipment, at .25 percent, remained fairly static.

In the income column, federal and state aid revenues are expected to bring modest increases to the district, with state aid rising 7.96 percent and federal aid 5.41 percent. The total amount levied by taxes is anticipated to be $96.2 million for 2008-09.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. L. Oliver Robinson said despite their best predictions, the budget process is a waiting game as property tax assessments and state aid money remain in flux.

“Tax assessments come out in August, and state aid isn’t written in ink,” said Robinson. “In our estimations of revenues, we tend to be very conservative in our approach in the revenue side of the equation.”

Board of Education members spent more than an hour Tuesday night scrutinizing the draft document and possible avenues to whittle down expenses. Discussion ensued about the cost of providing graphing calculators to students in math and science classes, with most board members agreeing it presents a financial burden on parents to require them to buy the $100–$130 calculators.

A letter to parents last year suggested parents buy the calculators but mentioned there could be financial help in cases of hardship.

Rexford resident Larry Brodsky prodded the board to meet New York State Education Department requirements that districts make non-consumable supplies available to every student.

“My goal is to make sure every student that needs one has a calculator without paying for it,” said Brodsky. “This is like adding an extra tax on parents who are forced to buy one.”

Clifton Park resident William Wrigg said he was concerned about long-term fixed expenses stemming from district construction projects.

“The maintenance of some of these projects, swimming pools and tracks, will have a considerable impact on future budgets,” said Wrigg. “Shenendehowa is part of a much larger community in a deep, scary recession; the days of wine and roses are over. These sad realities need to be faced by the board now and in the future.”

“We’ve been very fortunate in this region that the larger financial impact hasn’t hit us as hard,” said Robinson. “Nonetheless, we’re in a very careful balancing act with this budget.”

Board of Education members will continue reviewing the budget numbers in a series of study sessions, followed by a required public hearing on May 6. The final version will go to vote on Tuesday, May 20.

Categories: Schenectady County

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