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JCS Board of Ed adopts budget with tax hike and staffing cuts

JOHNSBURG - Facing declining revenue and soaring operating costs, the Johnsburg Central School Board of Education adopted a preliminary 2009-2010 budget April 21.

Although it includes no increase in appropriations and $316,000 in staffing and program cuts, if adopted by residents the budget would require a 10.9 percent increase in the local tax levy.

"The last two budgets were created at a time when the state was promising steady increases in aid," Johnsburg Superintendent Mike Marcwika said April 23. "Last year we knew it was a bad year for everyone, so we made sure there was a 0 percent tax increase - in retrospect, we should have probably waited one more year."

The recently adopted New York State budget mandates a flat-line of aid to public schools instead of a 3.5 percent increase.

The proposed budget maintains the total appropriations from 2008-09, spending $9.98 million, according to JCS Business Administrator Kathy Spring.

Estimates have the tax levy increasing from $10.49 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $11.63 per $1,000.

The budget would eliminate several staffing positions including a special education teacher, a full-time teacher's aid, a full-time custodian and cutting a full-time business teaching position to a half-time position.

Further, the summer enrichment program and the project success program have been gutted to reduce expenditures, Marcwika said.

"These cuts were not easy decisions," Marcwika said. "Many of these programs came out of board directives."

Marcwika said that further savings have been discovered since the budget's adoption.

"Kathy (Spring) and I went through it line item by line item," he said. "We were able to find an additional $164,602 by tightening our retirement policy and cutting some supplies."

At the April 21 board meeting, there was an aura of dissent among some teachers who believed that their input was not sought while staffing cuts where being investigated.

"I don't know how much time you spend in the school, but I feel we are in the best position to know what is expendable and what isn't," fourth-grade teacher Jill Pederson said to the board members. "I just feel like there was a total lack of input on our end in all of this."

The proposed budget passed the board 5-1, with Tom Ordway dissenting and Frank Morehouse absent at the time of the vote.

There will be a public hearing on May 11 at JCS. The vote on the measure will be May 19.

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