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May 11, 2014

Saranac Lake Central School District makes tax cap

LEVY: School needs to cut jobs, pay for 2014-15 budget

SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake School District levy for 2014-15 meets the allowable tax cap of 1.84 percent, but it took job and pay cuts to get there.

The budget totals $28,274,681, a 0.69 percent increase, and the proposed tax levy totals $19,728,735.

POSITIONS CUT

Holding the line meant eliminating 10 teaching-assistant jobs and six full-time teaching positions in several instructional areas — foreign language, high school business, high school technology, music (a 0.2 position) — and two elementary teaching positions.

School Business Manager Dan Bower said five positions closed through attrition. Three teachers and two teaching assistants are retiring, and those jobs are not being filled.

SALARY CUTS

The budget proposes a $450,291 total cut to salaries for kindergarten through grade 6 and a $344,418 cut to salaries for teachers in grades 7 through 12.

It also cuts $149,993 from non-instructional salaries.

Alongside modest increases for equipment and supplies, the total reduction in the Teaching-General Education Fund is at $833,324.

HIGHER COSTS

The cuts balance about $500,000 worth of mandated cost increases to school spending.

“Pensions increased — not as much as last year, but our total employee benefit contribution was up by $499,833,” Bower said.

“We have very little control over these areas. We had to budget a little more for unemployment because we had layoffs this year.

“We have a $9,543,552 total employee benefits allocation, which includes retirement, Social Security, health and dental insurance.

“It’s up 5.2 percent, compared to the 1.46 percent CPI (Consumer Price Index) assigned for us in calculating the tax cap. 

“You can see that creates a gap for us right off.”

GAP IMPACT

The school also had to absorb continued impact from the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which in four years has pulled nearly $5 million in state aid from Saranac Lake Schools.

The state adjustment was put in place under former Gov. David Paterson, intended as a one-time cut to school aid to close the state budget gap. Sustained aid cuts from that measure this year total nearly $825,000.

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