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What you need to know for 07/27/2017

Proposed Niskayuna school budget has no program cuts

Proposed Niskayuna school budget has no program cuts

Dire financial concerns connected to next year’s proposed Niskayuna school budget appear to have eas
Proposed Niskayuna school budget has no program cuts
Van Antwerp Middle School in the Niskayuna Central School District is pictured. A school forum is being held there Saturday morning.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Dire financial concerns connected to next year’s proposed Niskayuna school budget appear to have eased as schools Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio this week proposed a $77.3 million spending plan for 2014-2015 that she says stays within the tax cap and keeps all current student programs.

Salvaggio said she achieved that through administrative restructuring, savings from retirements and the use of fund balance.

Those three areas would close a budget gap of $1.6 million. That number is down considerably from a once-feared $2.6 million gap.

The plan would include a 2.81 percent tax levy increase, well under the 4.52 percent cap anticipated for the district in 2014-2015.

Salvaggio could not be reached for comment Friday, but in a statement issued on the district’s website this week, she said the plan “represents a combination of careful choices, tough decisions, and long-term financial management.”

“I am pleased that after years of reductions, we are in a position to continue all current programs and opportunities to students next year — as we manage the ongoing fiscal challenges faced by school districts in New York,” Salvaggio said.

District residents will get their first chance to comment on the proposal this morning from 9:30 to 11:30 at the Van Antwerp Middle School auditorium. The forum is to allow residents to also comment on budget issues in general.

The relatively painless budget plan comes just over a month after parents packed school board meetings to oppose closure of an elementary school. Then, the larger $2.6 million budget gap was feared. But the board voted to keep all schools intact. Closure of a school would have saved the district about $415,000.

The district is expected to have enough surplus to safely use $786,000 toward the budget, Salvaggio said. Fund balance had been restored through conservative planning and expense reductions in recent years, she said.

The administrative restructuring is expected to save $382,000 with the elimination of the equivalent of 31⁄2 administrative positions through retirements. Positions would then be combined and reassigned.

Another $245,000 is expected to be saved through retirements, Salvaggio said. Twelve retirements are expected at various staffing levels. Except for those positions being eliminated through the administrative restructuring, the positions will be filled. The savings will come through the difference in salaries.

Another $224,000 in benefits savings is expected through the moves.

The Board of Education is to consider the budget plan at workshops March 18 and March 25. A proposed budget could then be adopted as early as the March 25 meeting. Voters would then consider it in May.

On Friday, board member Robert Winchester said wants to make sure the district will have enough reserves in its various funds in the future.

“I like what I see, but I have some concerns and questions,” he said.

Board member John Buhrmaster on Friday said the board asked administrators to bring a budget without the painful line-item cuts from last year and they delivered.

Buhrmaster’s concerns, though, involve the administrative cuts.

“It’s my belief that the administrative cuts are going too far,” Buhrmaster said. “But, if administration believes they can make it work, I trust them.”

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