2012-03-07 / Front Page / Schools

Haldane Board looks for reductions

Goal is to get closer to 2 percent tax hike
Kylie McConville

 Haldane Superintendent Villanti and School Business Manager Anne Dinio will be hard at work to bring budget numbers down, following concerns voiced by board members at the March 6th meeting.

And while the board already begins to prepare for potential losses that could affect the Haldane school community in 2013 and 2014, the board is committed to tightening the 2012-2013 budget up as much as possible.

 Wayne Robinson, Director of Facilities, addressed the board at the Tuesday meeting to share the proposed 2012-13 Operations, Maintenance and Transportation budget, which features a $100,000 reduction in energy costs. Robinson outlined cuts in the year’s heat and oil usage costs. Due to the unseasonably warm winter, the school was able to cut its heating oil usage by 100 gallons per day.

 Trustee Evan Schwartz asked about the future of transportation and whether or not Haldane would see the addition of propane buses, which would cut costs considerably over time. “If we are willing to make the investment,” Robinson said, “there are lots of positives.” Another reduction Haldane is looking to make will be teaming up with neighboring districts to reduce costs on out-of-district transportation, however, Robinson says that “we have very few opportunities to work with other districts” but does assure the board that it is an “ongoing search,” noting that Haldane collaborates with the Garrison school district often.

 Thinking ahead to next year, Superintendent Villanti is already forecasting that the Haldane community will need to make ‘big ticket cuts’ in order to get by. “How do you sustain a half million dollar cut every year for a 22 million dollar budget?” he asks, in lieu of the $500,000 revenue loss.

 

That being said, Villanti detailed what the budget could look like if bigger cuts needed to be made: reducing extra-curricular clubs and class trips, suspending class size restrictions, eliminating art and music programs, offering only half-day kindergarten and reducing junior varsity athletic programs at the high school level were among the biggest cuts that Villanti said could stand to be made. A merger with partner districts, including Garrison, and refinancing the high school would also help make up for the $500,000 loss.

 Board members then spoke on the current 2012-2013 preliminary budget, a 1.93% budget-to-budget increase and a 2.65% tax rate for taxpayers.

 Gillian Thorpe, Board VP, opened up the conversation by saying that she’d like to see the budget reduced, with cuts coming from reductions in equipment, materials and within the cleaning and maintenance work force.  “It’s a good budget,” she says, “but I’d like to see it reduced, without cuts in art and sports programs and our full day Kindergarten program.”

 Board Trustee Michael Junjulas asked to hear more on the refinancing option, which could result in $45,000 of savings for Haldane.  He also felt that the preliminary budget could stand to feel a bigger pinching of the belt, reducing the 2.65% tax increase to 2.0%.

 Trustee Peter Henderson said that he’d like to “explore more ways to get to a 2.0% tax rate.” Believing that the school will “squeak by this year,” Henderson is hopeful that this year the board will look for opportunities to trim the budget without inflicting too much pain on taxpayers.  Next year, however, Henderson states that, “unless there is a huge change, lots of these big items will be lost.”

 Sharing similar concerns about next year’s concerns, President Curto believes that those ‘big ticket’ items need to be looked at separately and, “this year, we need to bring the budget down a little, making reductions where we can.”

 Overall, the board shared the same sentiment with Villanti: they will do their best to protect academic programs and begin accessing next year’s issues earlier.

 A meeting took place last night, March 13th, where board members met to revisit the reduced budget and analyze if further reductions could be made.

 

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