2013-02-20 / Schools

Turnout Nil for Garrison Budget Workshop

By Annie Chesnut

All set up and no one to talk to: The Garrison School Library was ready to host a community Budget Workshop last week, but no one showed up. 
Annie Chesnut All set up and no one to talk to: The Garrison School Library was ready to host a community Budget Workshop last week, but no one showed up. Annie Chesnut What if they gave a workshop and nobody came?

Last Wednesday evening at the Garrison School, that’s exactly what happened. Two administrators, a board member, and one reporter waited about an hour for interested community members to arrive for the first of a series of Budget Workshops for the Garrison Union Free School district, but nobody came.

There was the threat of some snow that evening, and it’s possible the weather kept people away. An earlier-than usual start time (7 p.m., as opposed to the usual 7:30) also could have been a challenge for some, but with no arrivals by 8:15 or so, that seemed not to be the case either. It was also speculated that in these days of the 2-percent tax levy cap from NY State, community members are more confident than ever that costs are being contained.

Superintendent Gloria Colucci and Business Manager Susan Huetter—accompanied by Board Trustee Diana Swinburne—graciously shared with us the informational packet for the first workshop, which included the following:

The Instructional Plan for 2013-14, which is set to include Professional Development, an updated Technology Plan; Project-Based Learning Experience; Accelerated Science at the middle school level; Foreign Language in Grades 3 through 8; Summer Academy; and continued upkeep of Buildings & Grounds.

The Preliminary
Budget Plan:
General Support
Preliminary Total

Colucci was careful to note that “this is our high number. We’re not anticipating this to go up.”

Cost Drivers: These include increases in Pension Systems, $136,367; BOCES Capital Project (first payment of a new, 3-year commitment) $48,057; Health Insurance, $48,228; Net Salaries, $14,563; and Contract Transportation, $13,789.

Cost Reductions: These include one teaching position created by a retiree not being replaced, $107,984; Private Tuition and BOCES charges for students with special needs, $83,000; a point-two reduction of time for Social Worker, $17,416; Technology Support, from a shift to a new and more efficient supplier, $4,841; Social Security, $2,329; and Bond Interest, $1,400.

Loss of State Aid: As previously reported, there has been a total decrease in State Aid of $334,106 from the school year 2009-10 through 2013-14, or a reduction of 34.88 percent.

Estimated Revenue: Appropriated Fund Balance and Reserves, $554,057; Interest and Other, $40,500; NY State Aid, $623,773. Total estimated revenue = $1,218,330. Preliminary projected tax levy = $8,525,877 as of 2/13/13, is within the calculated allowable cap for 2013-14, but represents a 3.94 percent change from the previous year.

Among the questions that the group hoped participants would answer were: What programs must be maintained at all costs? What are your thoughts about how reductions should be made, and do you have certain priorities? How can we generate additional revenue?

The average class size for the coming year is projected to be about 19, Colucci said.

Citizens are encouraged to visit the district website for budget updates, write state legislators in support of mandate relief, contact the district office with specific questions, and attend one of the future budget meetings which are: March 8, 9:15 a.m. PTA meeting, open to the public; March 9, 10 a.m. Budget Workshop; and March 13, 7 p.m. Budget Workshop.

All workshops will run about 90 minutes or fewer.

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