Schools facing cuts from state budget crunch

"I think Keene is more fortunate than other school districts because we're not as dependent on state aid," said superintendent Cynthia Ford-Johnston, optimistic that several staff retirements would help the school to keep its tax levy down despite the significant cuts.

Johnston expressed concern over another proposal by the state to cap taxes paid to local municipalities for state-owned land, which accounts for over 70 percent of Keene and roughly 40 percent of the town's total assessed value.

"If that happens along with the cuts to state aid, that's going to be a double whammy." she said.


Similarly, Westport will also have slight anticipated cuts greatly increased under Paterson's plan. Where the school was expected to lose nearly $10,000 in state aid for the 2009-2010 school year, it will now lose an additional $106,822. Overall, that equates to a 6 percent decrease.

Interim superintendent John Gallagher said he wasn't sure why the percentage of decrease was so much higher for Westport, but he is optimistic that the cuts will ultimately be smaller than the governor's proposal.

"We're going to do the best we can to maintain the programs we have in the face of the cuts in state aid," said Gallagher, who noted that the school's board is now in the second phase of budget planning for the next school year.

"We cannot put state cuts on the back of the local taxpayer," he added.


Originally projected to receive increases in state aid totalling more than $75,000, including a $33,000 addition to its transportation budget, Willsboro is now expected to face an overall cut of $36,538. In other words, the proposed budget turned a 3.2 percent increase into a 1.7 percent decrease in state aid for the district.

"Obviously, we never want to see state aid cuts for any school district," said superintendent Steve Broadwell, noting that state cuts will likely prompt the school to trim its budget in any one of a number of areas in order to continue to be fiscally conservative.

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