Ithaca Times

Tburg: Proposed School Budget Cuts Five Teachers

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Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 3:47 pm

Citing low enrollment projections in the high school, Trumansburg Central School District leaders have proposed reducing teachers by as many as five full-time equivalent (FTE) positions next year.

    District business administrator Kimberly Bell presented the latest draft of the district’s 2012-2013 budget, which includes $22,908,000 in total expenditures and a property tax levy hike at the maximum allowed. For Trumansburg school district, its tax-limit threshold is 2.7 percent, which would raise an additional $259,000 above this year’s current rate.

    The numbers deluge was presented at a meeting held Tuesday, April 2. To compensate for diminishing state aid, district leaders have proposed reducing the following high-school positions: two full-time math teachers; a full-time art teacher; a .5 FTE physical education teacher; a .5 FTE technology teacher; a .5 FTE French teacher and a .4 FTE business teacher.

    Also, an additional middle-school teacher, who currently leads a home and career class, plans to retire, and the full-time position may not be filled. Instead, a teacher’s assistant would pick up home and career duties, according to district interim superintendent Judith Pastel.

    All told, the staff reductions and attrition would save the district $519,000 and balance the district’s books next year.

    “The issue is enrollment,” high school principal Jon Koeng said, explaining the staff reductions in his building. “The challenge is looking at how to offer diverse programs but also be fiscally responsible.”

    Koeng said 363 high school students are expected in the 2012-13 school year, a drop of 131 students in the last four years.

    Several electives at the high school may also be dropped due to low class enrollment. Koeng said four electives including web design, sports marketing and two business-related courses could be lost.

    As another future cost-saving measure, Bell has proposed shifting payroll and tax-preparation responsibilities to TST BOCES and its Central Business Office (CBO). Payroll currently costs the district $58,000, while preparing tax documents each year costs the district $8,000 and time.

    Juxtaposed with Tuesday night’s budget meeting was talk of establishing a pre-kindergarten program at the cost of about $269,000.

    District director of instruction Sarah Vakkas made a short Powerpoint presentation on the benefits of the curriculum, which would target four year-olds. Referencing several studies, Vakkas said children in pre-K programs are twice as likely to attend college and earn higher median annual salaries as adults.

    A pre-K program would include three classrooms and about 44 students. The cost to implement would be about $269,000, and grant opportunities are available, Vakkas said.

    The board seemed to favor establishing a pre-K program, with one member referring to it as a “strategic investment.”

    By Pastel’s indications, the program costs would be factored into the 2012-13 budget and would require a property tax levy exceeding the district’s 2.7-percent limit. Such a budget would require a 60-percent super-majority vote from district voters.  

    Pastel asked if the community would be willing to pay higher taxes to support a pre-K program.  

    A former district teacher, speaking during privilege of the floor, said the burden on Trumansburg taxpayers is already too high.

    “Taxes are a huge issue in this community. We’re talking about people who just can’t do it anymore,” she said. “I think raising taxes more than 2.7 percent may not be favorable.”

    Pastel said the board would further discuss the 2012-13 budget and the pre-K program at its next meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, at the Ulysses Historical Society. The board will adopt next year’s budget at its April 18 meeting, and district voters will take the polls on Tuesday, May 15.


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