Planning for ‘the perfect storm’
When voters rejected a referendum to establish a repair reserve fund of $2 million for the third time, the board decided that the money would be returned on the tax levy. “We had cautioned the board that with what was going on in Albany and the potentiality of a tax cap, we could be facing the perfect storm, having to return two million dollars on the levy, and then being restricted by what can be raised in taxes.
That perfect storm has come together and we’re looking at a significant budget shortfall for the 2012-13 school year.
Currently, Dufour and Thornton are working to reduce expenditures without reducing staff and programming. “But we also need to do what’s fiscally prudent, so we’re looking at every program to see that they’re necessary, beneficial and cost-effective,” he said. “We’re going to be faced with a lot of very difficult decisions as we go through this budget process.
Potential outcomes include elimination of classes that don’t reach enrollment standards. “If we don’t meet the minimum numbers for a class, we won’t be able to run it,” said Dufour. “Enrollment in the Pre-K program is down by half. We’ve started discussing the possibility of reducing our Pre-K to a half-day program and that would have corresponding personnel reductions. It’s not something we want to do, but aid is tied to the number of students in the program and we’re losing half the aid.”
“Had the budget passed, we had earmarked where we could move forward without the potential of program or staff cuts,” added Reiser. “Where we’re at now, I don’t see any alternative. Our staffing levels are currently back down to the levels they were in 1999, and that was done through attrition.”
Under scrutiny will be things like driver’s ed, field trips and the sports program. “These are all important,” said Dufour. “Ultimately it’s the students that are affected.”
According to Reiser, there may be discussions about Kindergarten, which is not mandated, transportation (inside of a mile is not mandated), extracurricular activities and more. “The board is trying to be fiscally responsible by looking at any conceivable measure that will have the least impact on our children,” he said.