Teachers bear school budget burdens

Significant losses in state aid are forcing many local school districts to make tough decisions as they struggle to keep tax levies down.

The pain is being felt at varying levels as some districts have benefitted from productive communication with their employees about appropriate salary and benefit increases, while others have opted to lay off numerous staff in an effort to cut costs.

Lake Placid

Lake Placid Central School District is one case where teacher concessions limited the elimination of instructional staff.

There, the tax levy will rise 3.45 percent to help pay for $13,302,888 of a budget totalling just over $16 million, a 1.54 percent increase. The rate per thousand is expected to increase from $5.75 to $5.94.

"The administration, school board, and employee union worked together to make some changes in contractual language, which helped us to keep the tax levy down," said interim superintendent Ernie Witkowski.

The concessions come in tandem with the elimination of 14 positions, the majority of them being retiring instructional staff. One administrative position was cut, as well as two CSEA-member staff.

"We offered a retirement benefit package to many of our employees," Witkowski explained, "and many of them took it."

The cuts will help offset the loss of about $200,000 in state aid as well as the continually rising costs of employee wages and benefits, materials, fuel, and other operating expenses.

"We still believe that we can maintain a high quality of education for our students," Witkowski said.

Though enrollment numbers for next year have yet to be finalized, Witkowski said they are expected to decline from the current number of 714 to about 700.

Two public hearings are scheduled for the proposed budget: May 4 at the Wilmington Town Hall and May 11 at the Lake Placid Middle/High School Administrative Service Building. Both begin at 7 p.m.

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