Local school districts are facing hard times and difficult decisions as they prepare their 2011-12 budgets.

Local school districts are facing hard times and difficult decisions as they prepare their 2011-12 budgets.

Cuts, job loss inevitable at Lyons schools

The message to the 20 or so teachers gathered in the Lyons Middle/High School library was clear — cuts were imminent and jobs were in jeopardy.

Superintendent Rick Amundson invited teachers to attend the budget workshop March 8 so they could better understand the challenges the district is facing as it prepares the 2011-12 school budget. With a gap of over $1.2 million, the Lyons School Board was presented with their options to make ends meet, which all include drawing from the general fund, the question is just how much should they pull from it.

With a total budget of $19,141,623 and revenues totaling $17,934,302, the board must now determine how to fill the gap using a combination of general fund monies, a tax increase and program cuts.

“We won’t be building our reserves next year,” Amundson said. “This is a no-frills budget.”

Assistant Superintendent for Business Mike Pangallo said the biggest increases in costs come from health insurance, unemployment and retirement, equivalent to $483,351, and salary increases of $247,600. The district is also projecting a loss of some $1,231,474 in state aid.

Pangallo outlined the district’s general fund balance of over $4.9 million, most of which is in reserve and can only be spent for specific purposes, such as construction, insurance and debt service. The district will be seeking voter approval to purchase three new buses, all of which will be paid for by designated monies in the general fund.

The budget shortfall already reflects $500,000 pulled from the general fund as part of a 5-year plan set up by the district two years ago to use the funds to offset taxes. Amundson has recommended to the board to pull an additional $600,000 to $800,000 from the general fund as well as make cuts totaling $400,000 to $600,000 to fill the gap.

“When we make those cuts, someone is going to be attached to them,” Amundson said. “There’s no way we can start cutting $400,000 without cutting some people’s jobs.”

The board will meet again on March 22 with the final proposed cuts. Amundson said anyone whose job has been put on the chopping block he will already have spoken to before the cuts are announced.

Pal-Mac makes cuts while saving students some pain

The proposed Palmyra-Macedon School District budget calls for extensive cuts, but Superintendent Dr. Robert Ike assured School Board members students won’t suffer.

At their March 8 meeting, the Pal-Mac School Board heard their final budget presentation before the proposal and approval process. Ike gave the board thorough rundown of changes being made to tighten the budget and close the gap between revenue and expenditure, a task that the school district has taken seriously at every level.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo claims that the cut of state aid for 2011-12 will result in an average 2.9 percent reduction in overall spending across the state.

“I only wish we were average in this respect,” Ike said. “The governor’s proposed cut for Pal-Mac represents a 13.2 percent year-to-year reduction in aid. The cut is equal to 6.35 percent reduction in Pal-Mac’s total spending. The proposed cut for Pal-Mac is more than twice as large as the state average, because the distribution of the cuts is incredibly inequitable.”

In the county where the governor resides, the total of proposed cuts is equal to a 1.65 percent reduction in expenses. Some 37 of 40 districts will see cuts less than 2.9 percent, and all 40 districts in the governor’s county will see cuts smaller than Pal-Mac’s when compared to overall spending.

“We don’t want money thrown at public education,” Ike said. “We recognize that a 7.3 percent cut in aid as proposed by the Governor may be all that the state can afford. Instead, we need the legislature to push forward a budget proposal that distributes the cuts fairly.”

At their February meeting, the board asked for the district to explore further budget tightening possibilities so that necessary increases in the property tax levy would only need to be between 3 and 4 percent, roughly $1 per $1,000 of assessed value, to close the income-expenditure gap. If the board accepts the recommendations in the proposed budget, it will be decreased by $328,377 — nearly 1 percent of the entire budget, which reduces the levy increase to 2.87 percent.

Ike outlined the proposed changes, recommending that the board not fill the positions for coordinator of programs and assistant superintendent for instruction. He also provided the board modified job descriptions for the positions of director of human resources and elementary principle with the remaining job duties taken over by him.

The head custodian position will also not be filled, seven new early dismissal days have been added to the 2011-12 calendar to save costs with professional development days and substitute teachers, and all equipment, material, and supplies reduced by 5 percent. Also, 3.7 full-time faculty instructional positions will be eliminated based on enrollment figures and class sizes, as well as several other cost saving measures.

“Make no mistake, things will be different, and some things will suffer — they just won’t suffer for the students,” Ike said. “What’s more important is our focus on the kids in all of this. That is the mantra in every decision that we make.”