Schenectady County

Student drop, reserves, cuts ease Duanesburg tax hike

Lower enrollment, the elimination of an early learning foreign language program and the use of $550,

Lower enrollment, the elimination of an early learning foreign language program and the use of $550,000 of reserves will allow the Duanesburg Central School District’s 2013-14 budget to fall below the state-imposed tax cap, but will boost the levy by 2.89 percent.

The $14.4 million proposal increases spending by $256,311, or 1.81 percent, over the existing budget. Superintendent Christine Crowley said this year’s modest increase is partially a factor of the district continuing to close the $1 million budget gap created by a sudden drop in state funding more than four years ago.

“Like many districts around the state, we had to take an already lean budget and find areas to further trim,” she said. “A silver lining, however, is the board’s historically conservative use of fund balance reserves that are being used to help close the gap.”

In addition to the $550,000 in reserve funds, the school spending plan was balanced with $306,000 in new aid from the state budget that was passed last month.

Board of Education President Bob Fiorini cautioned that the reserve funds won’t last forever. He said the district’s savings will be depleted by the end of 2018 unless future budgets curb the reliance on reserves.

“It’s clear we can’t continue to rely solely on reserves to balance our budgets,” he said.

The budget reflects a reduction of two kindergarten teaching positions through retirement. The district also will shed one foreign language position through attrition.

Crowley said the reductions come as a factor of ongoing enrollment declines at the elementary level. With student numbers shrinking, she said, the district was able to reduce a kindergarten and a first-grade section.

District officials initially cut a part-time library media specialist position as well. But Board of Education members considered the position important and restored it shortly before adopting the budget last month.

The budget also subsidizes the school meal program, which is projected to fall $40,000 short this year. District officials blame some of the loss on a decline in students buying lunches.

In September, the Healthy School Lunch Act was imposed, requiring all schools receiving federal reimbursements to restructure their meal plans to meet a new set of federal guidelines, including a reduction in portion sizes and offering more nutritional options. The changes have been criticized by some students.

District residents will also consider a proposition to purchase three buses for $197,816. Nearly three-quarters of the purchase price would be covered under state aid, meaning the buses would cost about $13,300 per year, according to district figures.

Voters head to the polls on the budget and bus proposal on May 21.

Also, voters will chose among four candidates for two school board seats. Incumbent board member Henry “Gus” Geidel will go up against newcomers Ken Meyer, Kent Sanders and Walter Silva.

The candidate earning the most votes will immediately replace John McKeeby, who filled the seat of Cecilia Tkaczyk after she resigned to join the state Senate. The other candidate will take office when the new board is seated in July.

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