School districts expecting severe budget shortfalls

WARRENSBURG - Several area schools are facing deep budget gaps for 2011-12 - as much as $1.26 million - if the educational state aid allocations in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget are adopted.

Such cuts put substantial pressure on local school districts, area school officials said this week, in light of spiraling costs for fuel, plus staff and faculty pay, including pensions and health care.

The figures released in February by the governor's office detail the budget cuts: $1.26 million less for Warrensburg than in the 2010-11 year, $537,870 less for North Warren, $376,504 less for Lake George Central, and a $98,479 cut for Bolton Central.

The cuts were apparently determined in proportion to the State Aid the school districts now receive.

Warrensburg facing steepest decrease in aid

For Warrensburg Central School District residents, such a $1.26 million shortfall in State Aid - plus expected increases of about $420,000 in additional staff pension and health care costs - would prompt an 18 percent hike in 2011-12 property tax bills, according to figures based on prior budgets.

In recent years, the Warrensburg Central School Board has chosen to cut expenditures rather than to hike taxes.

Warrensburg Central Superintendent Tim Lawson said last week the school board would be tackling this budget gap Monday March 14 at their evening meeting.

"Obviously there's a shortfall in financial aid coming from the state, and this translates into the likelihood of reductions in personnel and programs," he said. "But the board can certainly consider raising the tax levy to make up the difference."

He said public input would be welcome.

"The board will have make some tough decisions soon," he added.

Faculty pay, high for region, keeps increasing

The bulk of the districts' expenses are faculty and staff pay and benefits. The Warrensburg faculty's present work contract expires June 30, and the school board is now in negotiations with the teachers' union over a new contract.

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