Higher costs and the loss of $4 million in state aid next year could result in the loss of up to 40 jobs, including 20 teaching positions, in the Ballston Spa Central School District, according to preliminary figures.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Dragone said the numbers are far from final and every sliver of spending is being looked at for possible savings.
He said proposed state aid freezes and cuts could leave the district with $4 million less in aid from Albany while costs rise more than $3 million without any new programs.
“We’ve seen some savings this year and opportunities for cuts, but we can’t just have reductions, we have to look at many strategies for creating value,” he said.
The federal stimulus package approved by Congress this week calls for so-called stabilization aid to states.
Dragone said it’s not known how much of the aid will trickle to Ballston Spa, but the first indication was that it would be about $142,000.
“It looks like the pared-down version has eliminated construction and building repair aid,” he said.
Dragone said the district’s four unions are working with him to cut costs and save jobs.
Teacher’s Association President Frank Colgan said that although the 400-member union signed a new five-year deal with the district last fall, his membership is willing to talk about concessions.
“Everything is on the table,” he said. “We’re working as a team and we’re willing to make compromises to save jobs.”
He said possible options include job sharing for teachers and unpaid leaves of absence.
Dragone said the district would be hurt by Gov. David Paterson's suggestion that state foundation aid be held at last year’s level for the current school year and next year.
“The foundation aid used to be called operation aid, and the formula includes an attendance factor,” he said. “If a student attends school half-day, they are counted at one-half. A full-time student counts as one.”
Last fall, the district increased the kindergarten program from half- to full-day. Because last year’s formula counted kindergarten students as attending half-time, the state aid for this year would continue to be calculated on the half-day program rather than the full-day program it has become.
The district accepted a one-time incentive aid grant to hire additional teachers and make other provisions for the full-time kindergarten students, but under the governor’s proposal, local taxpayers would have to pick up the additional expenses.
“It’s going to be very challenging, and we’re trying to get the community to understand the changes we will be proposing,” Dragone said. “We’re looking at the elementary schools and may have to raise class sizes a little.”
The school board will be discussing the budget again on Feb. 25, and Dragone is expected to make his spending recommendations on March 11.
The board must approve a spending plan by April 22 to be ready for a public vote in May.