Board schedules final hearing before Schenectady school budget vote

The board will hold one final hearing on its budget today before the spending plan goes back to the

The board will hold one final hearing on its budget today before the spending plan goes back to the voters next week.

The new budget has a 4 percent tax levy increase, down from 6 percent in May. That budget was roundly rejected.

If this budget is rejected as well, the district will have to go to a contingency budget by cutting another $500,000 and charging all outside groups that use the school buildings.

The proposed budget is $161.2 million — down from $161.6 million — and would increase revenues by $630,000 as the district pays off a debt.

Voters will go to the polls on June 15. Tonight’s hearing will be at 7 p.m. at the Black Box Theater at Schenectady High School.

In developing the budget, the board debated cutting several popular programs, including piano classes and classes for pregnant teens and others interested in learning how to care for children. All of those were kept in the final version of the budget.

Instead, the board eliminated $117,800 in salaries and stipends for teachers to teach other teachers. They got rid of a position in which a teacher shows other K-8 teachers how to use the district’s science kits and math program, and put an end to stipends for teachers who organize grade-level meetings or show other teachers how to use technology.

Teachers won’t be getting any more refreshments at their meetings, either. The board cut that at a savings of $2,500.

They also decided to cut one job and add back another. They eliminated the new head groundskeeper position, which was created last year but never filled because no qualified worker could be found to take care of the new football field. In exchange, they restored the Spanish teacher at Central Park International Magnet School. Both positions were estimated to cost $65,000.

They got rid of the assistant superintendent of business position — the employee is leaving this month — and reorganized the business office to save $150,000 after promoting two people to handle the work. They also eliminated one of the two $65,000 parent liaisons and considered cutting both, but the other is funded by a grant.

The board cut its own budget too, knocking $5,000 out of its $30,000 for training programs.

Consultants took a hit too, to the tune of $50,000.

But the board kept the controversial $7.9 million that it will use to balance out this year’s cut in state aid. The district poured nearly all of its cash savings into the budget to reduce this year’s tax impact.

The board will have at least a $12 million hole to fill in its 2011-2012 budget, schools Superintendent Eric Ely said.

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