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Late state aid data means ICC budget do-over

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KINDERHOOK – Ichabod Crane Superintendent George Zini presented a tentative budget for the 2015-16 school year to the School Board Tuesday evening, March 31, saying that his administration had created the budget without knowing the state aid numbers, which arrived that day.

Mr. Zini presented a $37-million proposed budget, which would maintain current programs and services. “There is no anticipation of cuts in services for next year,” Mr. Zini told the board. He said the district was saving money in teachers’ and employees’ retirement services this year. He also said that since seven teachers and four teacher assistants are retiring in June, the district will save money on those salaries. He pointed out that retiring teachers are usually at the higher end of the pay scale and they will be replaced by new teachers making less.

Among the expenses going up next year will be health insurance for employees, contractual obligations and special education costs. Mr. Zini said that last year costs for special education went down since there were fewer students in the district who needed the services. Next year he said the population would go up and there are more out-of-district placements for those students.

He said the proposed budget was a 3.74% increase over last year’s budget and that the district was allowed a 2.84% tax levy increase under the state’s 2% tax levy cap.

He did say the numbers would change before the next budget meeting April 14 since the district had finally received the aid amounts. For this version of the proposed budget, Mr. Zini said staff had to work off of last year’s numbers. “It’s been a different budget cycle this year,” he told the board.

Normally the districts receive advance notice of state education funding amounts for the upcoming year, called the state aid runs. The figures are sent before the adoption of the April 1 deadline for the state budget because school budgets must be approved by school boards in April so they can be on the district ballot to be voted on by residents in May. But the governor did not release the numbers due to ongoing negotiations with the legislature over teacher evaluations and testing.

Mr. Zini said that the district expects to see about $500,000 more in aid, but he did not have an exact figure Tuesday. Last year state aid was about $13 million.

Mr. Zini said teacher evaluations process would “continue to be an issue,” though he believes that withholding state aid because of the issue “did not make sense.”

The board will hold a special meeting Tuesday, April 14 at 7 p.m. to adopt the proposed budget and there will be a public hearing on the budget on May 12. The annual vote will be held on May 19 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the high school gym.

Also at the meeting:

  • Peter Bujanow, president of Friends of Lindenwald, discussed securing a marble bust and portrait of President Martin Van Buren, both of which are in district buildings. Mr. Bujanow said that Friends group would hire a conservator to look at the bust and suggest safe ways to display it in the school. “We are not seeking ownership,” he told the board. But he said the bust was valuable and the portrait might not be safe where it is hanging in the high school entrance. The bust was in the middle school but has been moved for safe keeping, according to Principal Tim Farley. Mr. Zini said that he would discuss further the plans to secure the art work with Mr. Bujanow
  • The board also discussed the portrait of Governor Martin H. Glynn that district lent to the Village of Valatie to hang outside its offices. Board President Anthony Welcome talked to Valatie Mayor Diane Argyle earlier this month about a resolution passed by the school board in January saying the district owns the portrait and it is on loan to the village for an indefinite about of time.

The village is disputing the district’s ownership of the portrait of the former governor. “It appears that we are not going to come to a resolution,” Mr. Welcome said. The board agreed to support the January resolution

  • The board accepted the resignation for the purpose of retirement of Mary-Eileen Cox, who started teaching in the district in 1986, and Lynda Van Alstyne, an Ichabod graduate and a physical education teacher in the district since 1977
  • Dave Vona, Robert Piel, Gregory Miller, Julianne Miller, Kathryn Walter, Gail Colton and Ashley Hughes were appointed to tenure.

The next regular meeting is Tuesday, May 5 at 7 p.m. in the high school library.

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

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