Local schools take action as state aid cuts loom

CHESTERTOWN In response to Gov. David Patersons proposal to slash school aid in the current year, Warrensburg Central School District which would lose $373,530 according to Patersons plan has now curtailed its spending on virtually anything that isnt mandated, District Business Manager Kevin Polunci said Tuesday. Weve shut down spending throughout the district except for maintaining vital day-to-day operations, he said. School district officials in northern Warren County have been reviewing their budgets and looking for ways to trim expenditures in reaction to the governors proposed emergency cuts. North Warren School District Business Manager Mary Lou Carstensen was busy this past week, trying to reconcile the differences between a previously approved 2008-2009 school budget which assumed the district would be receiving $3,867,377 in state aid as promised by the state. But with last Wednesdays gubernatorial budgetary reassessment, the district may only receive $3,714,402, representing a budgetary shortfall of $153,000. We are still absorbing the governors proposals, Carstensen said Thursday, just hours after Governor Paterson disclosed the plan, which would slash more than $1.3 billion in state aid to public schools statewide almost immediately in order to reduce a looming state deficit. Everyone is very concerned with the same thingwhere is the money going to come from? Carstensen said. Tuesday, the measure had not passed the state legislature, but Paterson has made his intentions clear. Other local school districts would also be feeling the pinch as income they had previously budgeted are likely to be reduced. It is a frightening time for New York State, Lake George School District Business Administrator Lyn Derway said. So much of the states revenue comes from Wall Street and Wall Street is struggling. Derway said that no specific programs had been axed as of yet by her school district, but she expects non-essential programs like field trips and teacher development training to be the first to go. Lake George would receive $1.98 million from the state if the governors plan was adopted. This amount is $82,000 less than what the school received from the state in 2007-08 and over $100,000 less that planned for this year. Bolton Central School District would receive $792,691 instead of the previously planned on $832,486. Warrensburg Central School would receive $10,602,821 from the state, versus the expected $10,976,351. Polunci said that if Patersons proposal were passed, the board would dip into fund balance to pay for most of the shortfall, while cutting all unnecessary expenditures during the year. All field trips and teachers conferences that were in the works will now be scrutinized, he said. Polunci said that the fallout from the sagging economy fuel prices that are now one-third lower than expected will be saving the District about $80,000, partially offsetting the state aid loss. Derway of Lake George expressed dismay over the proposed mid-year cuts. We passed our budgets assuming we were going to receive a certain amount, Derway said. There is no way to plan for a budgetary shortfall like this. Derway said that she expects schools will have an equally difficult time next year while planning for their budgets. Next years budgets will be a problem for all public schools statewide, Derway said. I wish the governor had chosen to leave this year alonemid school-year budget cuts are unheard of.

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