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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 25, 2010
Two tiers of savings and pain
By Zach Simeone
BERNE The Berne-Knox-Westerlo administration developed two budget plans tier 1 and tier 2 as means of coping with drastic state-aid cuts.
“Back in November, the board directed us to look at making expenditure cuts of 10 percent,” said BKW Business Official Kevin Callagy. “You can see that, in the tier 1 and tier 2, if you added them together, we didn’t get there.”
The proposed tier-1 budget, at $19.7 million, would be roughly $57,000 lower than the current school year’s $19.8 million spending plan. It includes a slew of personnel and program cuts, affecting 21 members of the BKW workforce, and adding up to $1,225,865 in savings for the district.
“That’s a huge number; a lot of people, a lot of programs,” Callagy said. “But, with the financial situation, we looked at things across the board in doing this. We looked at mandates and class sizes, and a lot of thought and a lot of input went into this.”
A tier-1 budget would tap into $990,000 of the district’s fund balance, and $486,477 in Board of Cooperative Educational Services aid, while raising the tax levy to $10.6 million, a 7.5-percent increase of $737,879.
The cost of employee benefits will increase by $410,351, to $5,710,972.
Half of class field trips would be eliminated, career and technical education enrollment would be reduced from 73 to 48 students, Tech Valley enrollment will be reduced by two students, K-12 student conferences and some computer lab hours will be cut, along with 20 percent of the district’s athletic program.
“Much has gone into this,” Callagy told those gathered in the auditorium last week. “What we’ve been working with, what we’ve been working against…It’s been a difficult process for the whole community.”
Tier-1 personnel cuts will include firing employees from the following 17 positions:
Two full-time clerical positions;
A part-time clerical position;
A full-time head custodian;
A part-time English teacher;
A full-time art teacher;
A full-time physical-education teacher;
A full-time social worker;
A full-time foreign-language teacher;
A full-time business teacher;
Two full-time academic-intervention-services (AIS) teachers;
A full-time special-education teacher;
A part-time social-studies teacher;
A full-time music teacher; and
Two full-time teachers’ aides.
It will also include cutting down the hours of four other positions:
A clerical position will be reduced from 12 months to 11 months;
A science teacher will be reduced from a full-time workweek to 16 hours a week;
A school psychologist will work three days a week instead four; and
A home and careers teacher will be reduced from a full-time workweek to 24 hours a week.
These changes in budgeting for instruction will cut costs by $410,332, bringing the total down to $9,692,959.
In addition, a number of sports teams and coaches will be expunged:
Boys’ junior varsity baseball;
Boys’ 9th grade basketball;
Girls’ and boys’ modified basketball;
Girls’ and boys’ junior varsity soccer;
Girls’ junior varsity softball;
Girls’ junior varsity volleyball;
Boys’ junior varsity wrestling;
An assistant track coach; and
An assistant cross-country coach.
School board members agreed this week that they would like to avoid the tier-2 budget if possible, which includes all tier-1 cuts, but would be “even more devastating,” Callagy said.
“Any of the cuts are going to have an impact, no doubt about it on programs, on people’s lives,” Callagy told the crowd Thursday. “But, with the things that we looked at, we tried to make it as minimal as possible.”
This $19.1-million spending plan, which would lead to an additional $453,500 in savings totaling $1.7 million in savings when added to the tier-1 cuts will mean a $700,000 decrease in spending from this year’s budget.
The tier-2 budget would see a tax levy increase of 1 percent, or $98,200, from the current budget, meaning $9.98 million would be raised by taxes.
As the district’s most desperate cost-cutting measure, the tier-2 budget will completely eliminate BKW’s athletic program, along with all extracurricular clubs, the remaining 50 percent of class field trips, five more career and technical education slots, and five more employees: The elementary school nurse; two teachers’ aides; an elementary school AIS teacher; and a guidance counselor.
These further changes in budgeting for instruction, when added to savings from the tier-1 instruction cuts, will save the district $886,089, bringing the total down to $9,217,202; the cost of employee benefits, while still higher than this year, would only increase to $5,616,848 in the tier-2 budget.