Gloversville school needs could force job, program cuts

The state has placed the Gloversville Enlarged School District in a special needs category that will
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The state has placed the Gloversville Enlarged School District in a special needs category that will require more remedial programs and could force job and program cuts in other areas, Superintendent Robert DeLilli said Tuesday.

With new spending requirements imposed by the state, DeLilli said it may not be possible to retain all existing staff and programs without what he termed an unacceptable tax increase.

DeLilli, reacting to the notification from the state Education Department that Gloversville has been added to the “Contract for Excellence” program, which includes 39 districts across New York, said Tuesday he was still evaluating the impact of the designation.

On Monday night, when the Board of Education must adopt a budget in preparation for a May 20 vote, DeLilli said he will present at least two plans with various spending options.

DeLilli said he was not ready Tuesday to disclose detailed budget and tax increase scenarios. Officials had been considering a $52 million budget for the next school year, up from the current $46.8 million. Before the Contract for Excellence designation, Gloversville school officials were predicting a modest tax increase. The current school tax rate in the city of Gloversville is $22.42 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

DeLilli said Gloversville was designated for the contract program because it met the state criteria of a state aid increase greater than 10 percent while also coping with at least one school already classified by the Education Department as in need of improvement. The middle school received that designation two years ago after special education students performed below standards on the standardized English exam.

While Gloversville school officials are dreading the district’s new designation, SED spokesman Thomas Dunn said the contract program “is not a bad thing.”

He said the program “points [Gloversville] to specific and proven strategies.” The required spending, Dunn said, may be applied districtwide and not solely on the school in need.

Though the state aid printouts show Gloversville receiving about $6 million in new state aid — $30.8 million last year to $36.6 million in 2008-09 — eligibility for the contract program is determined by the increase in so-called foundation aid, Dunn said.

With its capital project in progress, Gloversville received $3.8 million this year in building aid and is scheduled for $6.3 million in 2008-09.

Meanwhile, the key foundation aid, which is devoted largely to operating the district, is increasing from $22.5 million this year to $25.3 million in 2008-09, a rise of $2.8 million, or 12 percent, Dunn calculated.

Under the contract program formula, Gloversville will be required to apply $1.17 million of the 2008-09 foundation aid to new initiatives.

Gloversville school officials enacted a variety of new initiatives after the middle school was targeted for improvement two years ago.

Board President Katherine Hillock said she is concerned the new program could burden a district already struggling and making progress.

“It is not the way to help us. We’re trying,” she said.

Information on the Education Department’s Web site lists allowable programs to be added as those reducing class size, increasing time on tasks, improving teacher/principal quality, restructuring, introducing experimental measures and measures for students with limited English proficiency.

The Greater Amsterdam School District is in the second year of its contract. Superintendent Ronald Limoncelli said Tuesday that while there are some drawbacks, the program is “not all bad.”

Amsterdam qualified last year when it received $2.5 million in additional state aid while also having a middle school deemed in need of improvement. Of the $2.5 million in new aid last year, Limoncelli said, $1.5 million had to be targeted at new programs at the middle school. This year, he said, Amsterdam is receiving about $2.4 million in additional aid and will have to spend $1.4 million on the initiatives.

If a proposal before the state Legislature is adopted, he said, it may create more flexibility and limit spending on new programs to $1 million in Amsterdam.

DeLilli and Gloversville Business Administrator Steven Schloicka could not be reached Wednesday for additional comment.

Categories: Schenectady County

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