Duanesburg District needs to reduce $1M, asks for input on tax increase
DUANESBURG The Duanesburg Central School District is considering cutting 31⁄2 positions and using its surplus to close a roughly $1 million budget gap.
Business Administrator Brenda Kane said maintaining all existing programs would increase the budget by about $500,000 to $14.5 million. Projected revenues total about $13.6 million.
The district’s enrollment is declining, according to Kane. School officials looked at what positions they could cut and are proposing to eliminate two elementary teachers, one foreign language teacher and half of a library media specialist. There would be a small increase in hours for a technology position and use of communications services, she said.
These cuts would save $219,000. Tapping money from fund balance would fill the rest of the hole. The amount of surplus the district would use depends on how much the board wants to increase the levy. The district’s tax levy cap under the state formula is 4.47 percent.
Kane cautioned that the board can’t tap into its reserves forever. “You’re going to get to a point when the fund balance is going to run out,” she said.
During a budget forum in February, Superintendent Christine Crowley predicted that the fund balance would run out in the 2016-2017 school year. At that point, the district could have to merge with another district or pay tuition to send students to other high schools.
Options for future cuts are very limited, according to Kane. “There’s not a lot of other things we’re going to scale back,” she said.
Kane said the district is also affected by the federal sequester, with the loss of some $420,000 if Congress and President Barack Obama do not reach a new budget agreement to fix the situation. Also, she has found a way to save on the district’s propane costs by applying and obtaining a $5,000 grant from the state. It will reduce the cost to 92 cents a gallon for propane.
School officials are encouraging residents to take an online survey indicating the amount of tax increase they would be willing to support.
Residents can view the superintendent’s budget presentation on the district’s website at www.duanesburg.org and visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/DCSbudgetsurvey to complete the survey.
Teacher Donna Wilks spoke on behalf of the Duanesburg Teachers Association at a recent Board of Education meeting, questioning why the district dropped from two foreign languages to one language, despite high enrollment in these classes. She criticized creating larger class sizes in the elementary grades with the teacher cuts.
“Students will be entering middle school less prepared and may require additional support services later on,” she said.
The district will have a community budget forum at 7 p.m. March 19 at the high school followed by the Board of Education meeting.
In other district news:
* Crowley said the district is partnering with six other districts to offer Advanced Placement classes through its distance learning classroom. Among the course offerings will be microeconomics and macroeconomics, psychology, English literature and art history. In addition, Crowley said the district is exploring working with the Schoharie, Middleburgh, Sharon Springs and Berne-Knox-Westerlo school districts to offer classes in Mandarin Chinese next year through distance learning.
* Crowley told the board she spoke with U.S. Rep Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, about trying to obtain funding for a new generator. The school district is an emergency evacuation site for Schoharie and Schenectady counties but its generator is not working.
* The board extended for another year its partnership with the Schoharie Central School District to offer a combined football program.
* John McKeeby rejoined the Board of Education. He did not seek re-election last May but was asked to return to fill the seat of Cecilia Tkaczyk, who resigned when she was elected to the state Senate.