Gloversville school board officials, seeking to cut up to another $750,000 from the budget to deliver a tax increase of 4 to 6 percent, did not adopt a budget Monday as planned.
After meetings starting with a conference this morning of building principals, the board will meet in special session at 7 p.m. Thursday to adopt the budget. That is the adoption deadline before the May 20 election.
Officials are blaming the budget predicament on the state Education Department, which last week notified the district it must direct most of its state aid increase — about $1.8 million of the $2.7 million aid increase for 2008-09 — into new remedial programs.
Board President Katherine Hillock, decrying the burden the state’s Contract for Excellence program places on the district at budget deadline, said Monday, “now we have to rethink our whole process.”
Board member Lynn Brown said she was led to believe the Contract for Excellence program was designed to give targeted schools additional aid to cover the expenses. But, she and others noted, Gloversville is receiving about $120,000 less in aid than was originally proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer before Gloversville was declared a Contract for Excellence district.
“Every year we have to do more with less,” said board Vice President Perry Paul.
Business Administrator Steven Schloicka presented the board Monday with a list of about $900,000 in cuts. The budget draft has been reduced from over $52 million to $51.3 million. Schloicka said the goal over the next several days will be to cut another $500,000 to $750,000 to achieve a tax increase of 4 to 6 percent.
Schloicka said state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, is trying to arrange special “bullet aid” for Gloversville, but there are no guarantees.
Board member Harry Wiggins said the additional budget cuts may have to be draconian and across the board.
Gloversville was one of three districts statewide added to the Contract for Excellence program because it met the criteria of an aid increase greater than 10 percent while having a school deemed in need of improvement.
Ironically, said Assistant Superintendent Roger Rooney, Gloversville’s middle school may have qualified in standardized testing over the winter to be removed from the “in need of improvement” category. District officials will learn that verdict in June, but an upgrade will not cancel the Contract for Excellence mandate, officials said.
“We were already innovating we were doing it all,” said Rooney of the district’s own remedial efforts.
The middle school became a school in need when an estimated 50 special education students scored below the threshold on an English language proficiency exam, Rooney said. After that the district instituted its own remedial programs to address the deficiency, and Superintendent Robert DeLilli said he is working with the Education Department to try to qualify some of that programming for the Contract for Excellence requirement.
Until Gloversville joined 38 other districts in the contract program, school officials had been predicting a modest tax increase and were even planning on restoring some positions cut in previous years.
The cuts already made remove funding for planned staff and other programs, including a transportation coordinator, a certified social worker at the middle school, the middle school summer school program, mentors, additional one-on-one aides, a special education teacher and police supervision at athletic events.
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Categories: Schenectady County