Governor Andrew Cuomo may be right about a lot of things, but he appears to have misread the financial situations of many New York schools, especially in places like the North Country.
Cuomo has been suggesting that schools should be able to navigate the coming year without draconian cuts using their fund reserves, along with some modest trims.
He also indicated that schools should address the salaries of their top administrators.
But a round-up of reports from regional newspapers suggest that many districts plan significant cuts to teachers, educational programs, and buildings.
The Plattsburgh Press Republican is reporting today that administrators in that district have already whittled a $4.3 million deficit down to just a $1.3 million shortfall. But closing the remaining gap won’t be easy.
“Up to 15 positions are being considered for further reduction, along with about eight student-program impacts,” said Superintendent James “Jake” Short.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported recently that the Saranac Lake Central School District is preparing to cut fourteen positions, along with mothballing the Lake Colby kindergarten school.
Under the plan, the district would eliminate the following: one full-time and two part-time positions by closing Lake Colby Elementary School; one foreign language teacher; one bus garage position; two clerical positions; one social studies teacher; one library position; one special education teacher; several positions where staff are retiring.
The Glens Falls Post Star is still tracking reactions to the planned closure of the popular Sanford Street Elementary School, announced this week.
But the paper is also reporting that the Glens Falls district may still have to cut “dozens” of jobs to balance the budget.
Of the potential reductions, 12 are teachers in English, math, social studies, foreign language, business, technology, physical education and elementary school.
The others include clerks, teacher aides and the principal of Sanford Street Elementary School, which will close this summer.
Of the 31 reductions, 13 would come through layoffs. The salary cuts would save $818,631. But eliminating positions also lowers the cost for benefits and pensions, bringing the total savings to $1 million.
Meanwhile, the Watertown Daily Times is reporting that even with these kinds of cuts, schools are burning through their fund reserves at an alarming rate, which could trigger even bigger cuts in the future.
Watertown City School District officials will use $1.6 million in fund balance to help bridge a nearly $5 million deficit in the 2011-12 budget. The district’s fund balance is about $8.7 million, Superintendent Terry N. Fralick said.
“The real problem is the next year,” Mr. Fralick said. “Our situation is very similar to other districts that will deplete their fund balance in a year or two. I don’t dispute what the governor is saying; we can make up the loss in state aid. But we can’t do it for very long.”
Kind of scary, right? North Country schools are cutting dozens of jobs — and perhaps hundreds of jobs when added together. But the real pain might not hit until next year.
It’s also worth noting that these cuts are coming even before Albany implements any kind of property tax cap, which could sharply limit the ability of district’s to raise more revenues locally.
As always, your comments welcome.