Press-Republican

April 15, 2013

Ti School budget will cut jobs, sports

BY LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — TICONDEROGA — A financial crisis in the Ticonderoga Central School District could take at least 11 layoffs and elimination of sports programs to resolve.

To close a $540,000 budget gap, Superintendent John McDonald Jr. said he and the School Board have come up with three scenarios to balance the budget before it comes up for adoption at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 25.

Which one they chose will depend on input from the public and school staff, he said.

TAX CAP

“We have to stay within the property-tax-cap formula. Our limit is 6.23 percent if we purchase school buses and at 3.78 percent without the buses.”

The tax cap equates to about $640,000 over the 2012-13 budget’s levy, he said, with $610,000 of that already filled by increased State Teacher Retirement System and health-insurance costs.

“It (the cap) barely allows us to cover our increases,” he said. “Those are our challenges.”

They have already made $322,000 in cuts, McDonald said, and need to save $540,000 more to get to the tax-cap limit.

The alternative would be to exceed the cap, which would require a 9 percent tax increase to be approved by a 60 percent super-majority vote of taxpayers on election day, he said, and the School Board has declined to do that.

THREE OPTIONS

Instead, they have drafted three possible plans to stay at the state cap, the superintendent said.

The first would eliminate all sports and extracurricular activities to save $300,000 and would cut 11 positions total over all departments.

The second option would reduce athletics and extracurricular activities to just “lifetime use” sports of cross country, track, bowling and golf, saving $150,000, and cut 14 positions.

The third and last scenario would remove only junior varsity sports and eliminate 15 jobs.

All three proposals would get the amount to be raised by taxes in the budget to the same place: $10.7 million without school bus purchases.

McDonald said the School Board seems to be leaning toward using either the second or third scenarios but will discuss it further at the last budget session, to be held at 7 p.m. April 16 at the Hague Community Center. That is open to the public.

NO ATTRITION

The job eliminations in the three scenarios would probably have to come from layoffs, he said, not retirements or attrition.

“We’d have to figure out where (in departments) they’d come from.”

The $322,000 in cuts already made include not replacing a retiring librarian, eliminating the choral director and summer custodians and making cost-saving adjustments to insurance and Teacher Retirement System payments.

Health insurance is up 4 percent, about $150,000, under BOCES Plan A, McDonald said, with no increase under Plan B. Only district retirees are under Plan A.

State aid is slated to go up 3.7 percent, for an additional $240,000, for 2013-14.

NO MORE CONCESSIONS

No teacher concessions are being requested, McDonald said, because teachers and staff have made concessions for the last three years.

“We may be the only district with three consecutive years of concessions.”

He said the budget gives teachers 2.8 percent raises and a return to the previous pay scale for 2013-14. There were temporary pay reductions over the three years.

BUDGET TIMELINE

The 2013-14 budget totals about $18.6 million, up from $17.8 million last year, with a tax levy of $10.7 million, a 3.78 percent increase.

Adoption of the budget and the first public hearing is 7 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at Ticonderoga High School cafeteria.

The second budget hearing is 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at Ticonderoga Elementary-Middle School auditorium.

The school election and budget vote is from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 21 at Hague Community Center and Ticonderoga High School lobby.

McDonald said the district is encouraging everyone to come to the next meetings.

“We need to get some public input,” he said.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com