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Schenectady school board outlines time line to complete budget

Thursday, March 20, 2014
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— The Schenectady school board plans to put together next year’s budget in a special Saturday session.

On April 5, the board plans to meet from 8 a.m. to noon to work on the budget. The following Wednesday, they plan to adopt a budget.

But they weren’t all enthusiastic about that schedule.

“If we find something is unacceptable, there won’t be much time to change it,” said board member Cheryl Nechamen.

She wanted multiple meetings, like last year, when many changes were made to reflect last-minute criticisms from teachers and compromises among board members.

Those meetings were also better-attended by residents because they were on weeknights. Generally, the board’s weekend meetings are not well-attended. The weekend meeting is also not yet on the school calendar, and no location has been announced.

Board President Cathy Lewis said preliminary budget meetings allowed board members to state their priorities, which will be used to create the proposed budget before the Saturday meeting.

She added that she knew that budget wouldn’t satisfy every board member.

The board could add a meeting during the April vacation. The final legal date for adoption is April. 24.

The public will vote on May 20.

The school district budget must be cut by roughly $10 million next year, after taking into account raises and increases in health insurance, pension system payments and other expenses.

Lewis is hoping that the state budget — which could be finished by the end of next week — will give the district more money.

But it won’t be $10 million, she said.

Also on Wednesday several health teachers told the board that a change in health classes did not work well this year.

Students got health class in sixth grade rather than seventh, and not as a separate class. Teachers said students regularly left class for chorus, extra help and other courses. They said the students also got far fewer hours of education, and appealed for a change next year.

But with a $10 million cut in that budget, it’s not clear what changes could be made.

Superintendent Laurence Spring seemed sympathetic. He said the change in health classes was made to save money.

“I don’t think in any of those instances we made reductions in those programs because we thought we should withdraw services from kids,” he said, adding that the cuts had to be made because “the state does not adequately fund the school district.”

The district has also held a series of public budget workshops to find out what items can be cut.

The last session is tonight at 6 p.m. at King School, 918 Stanley St. Groups devise their own school budget, choosing among various proposals, ranging from eliminating programs to seeking salary concessions. The process takes about two hours.

 
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