School cuts 16 staff members, keeps budget nearly flat

The Saranac Lake Central School District Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a budget with a tax increase of just less than 2 percent after eliminating 16 staff positions.

District Business Manager Dan Bower said the total budget is $27.1 million, an increase of about a half percent from the current budget. He said the tax levy would nudge up to $18.1 million or 1.96 percent from the previous year.

Bower said administrators made some tough decisions to keep spending in check, but as a result of careful pruning he believes the budget process garnered respect among the school's staff.

"I think they saw that we tried to do our cuts with a scalpel instead of a machete, and that it was an open, reasonable process," he said.

The district was forced to cut spending in the wake of more than $500,000 in state aid cuts and as school enrollments continue to slide. The bulk of the cost savings will come from staff reductions.

According to Bower, the school won't refill the positions of nine retiring staff members and five teachers will be laid off, including two Social Studies teachers and a foreign language teacher.

A course called "English as a Second Language" will be dropped and its instructor will be laid off. Two other non-instructive staff positions will also be trimmed through layoffs.

Board member Clyde Baker said he and other board members believe they have passed a responsible budget and that because of a healthy tax base, the school will remain on a good financial trajectory for years to come.

"We're considered a rich district because of a hefty tax base from second homes," Baker said. "Financially, we're in good shape."

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