SARANAC — Saranac Central School's proposed spending plan is right where it should be, says Superintendent Ken Cringle.He has a list of further cuts they could make, if need be, but he recommends against such measures, while pointing out that if the budget fails to receive voter approval, a contingency spending plan would "decimate" programs."This budget will continue to meet the needs of children at an affordable rate to taxpayers," Cringle said at a public hearing held to discuss the 2007-08 budget at the Middle/High School auditorium in Saranac.
When school officials first began the process, the budget jumped nearly 9 percent over the current spending plan and carried with it a 6.5-percent increase in the tax levy — the amount to be raised by taxes — and a tax rate estimated to rise about 5.5 percent.So officials sat down and came up with another $356,000 in reductions in areas such as retirement, bus costs, materials and supplies, psychological services and band instruments."We went line by line by line by line," said Business Manager Robert Brooks. "We wanted to squeeze as much as we could out of this budget."In the end, the 2007-08 budget totaled $28,949,854, up 6.82 percent, or $1,849,100, over the current spending plan.The tax levy is $10,514,855, for an increase of 2.06 percent.The tax rate is estimated to actually decrease by .64 percent to $19.63 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The budget included an estimated increase in state aid of around $1.3 million."It's a nice increase in aid, yet it is still below what it was seven years ago," Brooks said.At that time, the state covered nearly 68 percent of the budget; that has dropped to 57 percent today.But, ultimately, school officials were pleased with the aid increase, although costs to educate students with disabilities alone are up $1,093,783.Health-care costs increased $264,771; maintenance of the plant, $170,590; transportation, $53,690; and psychological services, $51,816.The spending plan also included about $145,000 in decreased costs in the areas of computer-assisted instruction, library and worker's compensation.
Cringle was pleased with this budget, though he did offer the School Board a list of further cuts in spending if the need arises.Those reductions total $311,000 and would be made in the areas of band instruments, the drug and alcohol program, interscholastic, $140,000 in new staffing requests district-wide and reductions in current staffing in the elementary grades.Cringle said that not only would such reductions hurt programs but they would increase class sizes."I will not recommend further reductions to the spending plan. But it is extremely important to have an alternative plan."Saranac teacher and union President Lisa Napper also spoke out against staffing cuts and in support of minimal increases in staffing, while applauding the board for the budget as it stands.She said that when it was decided that Dannemora and Cadyville schools would close, officials stressed the importance of maintaining manageable class sizes. Larger class sizes would negatively impact learning, she said."Class sizes over 20, with the needs of our district, would mean some students would be left behind."If the budget is defeated by voters, the School District would have to slash another $833,045 from the spending plan under a contingency budget.Cringle pointed out that the list of further cuts he proposed, which he feels would inhibit learning, amounted to sightly more than $350,000."We would certainly have to decimate programs" in a contingency budget.The School Board is still analyzing the exact amount of aid it would receive under the budget approved by state lawmakers and plans to adopt its own spending plan April 16."I believe we have a spending plan that maintains existing programs," Cringle said, "and if revenues are realized, we will be able to provide much-needed relief to the taxpayers of this district."