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ICC foresees grim forecast for school aid

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VALATIE–Ichabod Crane Central School District Superintendent James Dexter and the school board discussed the current school budget this week, with a look ahead to 2010-11. “It’s all about positioning ourselves at the end of this school year,” Mr. Dexter told the board at the Tuesday November 10 meeting.

Mr. Dexter does not expect to see a mid-year reduction in school aid, but is sure that there will be a state aid freeze or reduction in state aid in the next school year. Governor David Patterson called the state legislature back to Albany this week to reduce the state budget as a way of addressing a multi-billion dollar deficit. Because aid to schools is such a large part of the state budget, those funds are among the likely areas in which state spending will be reduced.

District officials are already working on ways to save money in this year’s budget so they will have funds to set aside for the 2010-11 school year. Mr. Dexter talked about changes in the district’s health care prescription plan, which has already saved money. Also, the district has proceeded with small capital improvement projects as part of the district’s long-term planning in hopes of avoiding more costly emergency repairs.

Officials have been using grant-in-aid funds to upgrade technology. One of those grants was secured by Assemblyman Tim Gordon (I-108th). With the $50,000 grant, the district was able to purchase Apple computers and LCD projectors, and upgrade its computer network infrastructure.

Assemblyman Gordon will visit the district Friday, November 13, to view the Middle School career education program. He will also observe the use of educational technology at the High School and demonstrations of the district’s energy use reduction program.The district is sharing services with several other districts in the county and has applied for funds to study a “functional consolidation” with the Schodack Central School District in neighboring southern Rensselaer County.

But even with all these steps, Mr. Dexter said that the likely state aid cuts will “be a challenge for all school districts; we are not alone.”

The superintendent said that he and Business Administrator Greg Giammarco have looked at the budget line by line for saving in this year’s spending. That effort left Mr. Giammarco anticipating that the district faces “hard hits every year for at least three years.”

“I think we are going to get whacked pretty hard,” said Mr. Dexter about aid in the 2010-11 school year. He said the district hopes to keep general appropriations at 2%, which is 1% lower than the current year. “We are trying to avoid any spike in the tax levy,” he said.

The board also heard a presentation from the English Language Development Department (formally known as the English as a Second Language Department). The department program, which has tripled in size over the last few years, serves 53 students in the district. “The kids are really an asset to the school and we want to foster that,” said one teacher. The department prepares students from bilingual homes for state and school tests and evaluations.

Before the regular meeting the district hosted a reception to recognize the teachers appointed to tenure in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years. Berit Allard, Melissa Call, Jean Calvin and Holly Winfield Klein received tenure at the Primary School, along with their principal, Melissa Murray. At the elementary schools Lorraine Davidson, Teresa Kirker and Darcy Thomas received tenure. Tracey Gold, Robert Hanna, Mattias Nordgren, Mehgan Pettit, Anders Rasmussen, Robert Samaniuk and Jennifer Welcome in the Middle School, and Beth Miller, Anastassia Gonyea and Patrick Sanger in the High School. Sharon Gaffney received tenure in memoriam.

The next regular school board meeting will be December 1 at 7 p.m. in the Middle School Library. For more information go to the district website, www.ichabodcrane.org.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com.

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