SCS starts work on downscaled budget


By David Avitabile

Schoharie school board members are meeting twice this week to piece together a new budget in the wake of the area’s only budget defeat.
SCS voters turned down a proposed $19.7 million budget, 407 in favor and 441 against on May 20. That budget, which would have increased spending by 5.56 percent, would have raised the tax levy by 4.44 percent.
Superintendent Brian Sherman said Friday that board members will try to craft a new budget that will have a tax levy increase of about 2.6 percent.
Board members are were expected to meet Tuesday evening as well as tonight, Wednesday.
The smaller budget would prevent the implementation of some programs that will impact students, Mr. Sherman said, and also hurt the progress being made in improving the buildings.
“The maintenance of our facilities has been long neglected,” he added.
The board members are very responsible, he said, and he is very optimistic they “will get through this budget ‘blip.’”
Mr. Sherman said SCS officials were quite surprised at the outcome, especially since there was little discussion at the budget hearing and forum other than requests to try to keep the levy as low as possible.
“Especially at a time of the highest aid to schools in the history of New York, with a record number of budgets passing across the state, we were definitely surprised,” he said.
Schoharie’s was only one of 7.5 percent of school budgets in the state that failed.
Without an exit poll, Mr. Sherman said officials cannot be sure why the budget failed, but from the comments at the hearing, “the community is expressing concern over the economic climate.
“Many of our young families are mortgaged to the hilt and the cost of commuting to Albany is unreasonable for most in our community.”
He noted that voting on a school budget “is the only way to demonstrate frustration.”
Two important additional factors at SCS, Mr. Sherman said, is that the district is in the process of difficult negotiations with two bargaining units and SCS is only one year into recovering from a contingency budget, a process that normally takes several years.
Though a contingency budget is possible this year, Mr. Sherman said he did not want to think of that option, noting that the community approved spending for the bus purchases, the Schoharie library and the capital reserve fund.
If the district had to go to a contingency budget, Mr. Sherman said that about $350,000 would have to be cut from the budget.
Cuts of that size would “likely mean hits to student support programs,” as well as loss of BOCES slots to send students to career and technical programs, loss of staff increasing class sizes, hits to extracurricular and athletic programs, no equipment purchases, reduction in student supplies and only emergency and essential maintenance to the buildings with no routine maintenance allowed.
“I really hope we don’t go there,” Mr. Sherman said.
It is the third time in the last eight years that voters have turned down the initial Schoharie school budget.
In 2001, voters turned down a budget that called for a 4.09 percent increase in taxes and in 2006 voters turned down plans that called for a 9.1 percent and a 6.1 percent increase in taxes. Last year’s budget, which called for a 5.88 percent increase in taxes, was approved by more than 140 votes.