BY MICHELLE MILLER
Cooperstown Central School Superintendent Mary Jo McPhail made a PowerPoint presentation that featured proposed cuts during a budget work session held on Wednesday, March 10. The work session was moved from the cafeteria to the auditorium so that microphones could be used and people could be more comfortable, according to McPhail. She said the meeting was well-attended and the board wanted to allow people to provide input about the topics being presented.
The agenda included, but was not limited to, district staffing, class size options, interscholastic athletics and reductions in extra-curricular activities, network systems purchases, delaying purchases such as a new bus and a review of enrollment trends in French, business and technology courses and the summer driver’s education program.
According to McPhail, members of the public were able to make comments about each agenda topic after an overview was presented. She said community members seemed most outspoken about class sizes and the proposed tax levy increase of 8.8 percent. There were also a number of questions regarding athletics, but this is not unusual because this topic comes in front of the board on an annual basis, said McPhail.
McPhail said athletics makes up a small portion of the overall budget (2.1 percent), but is a visible portion because of attendance. She said the athletic events are very well attended. According to the presentation, the total cost of interscholastic athletics is $338,179. Based on 2008-09 data, transportation for athletics costs $46,434.
The proposed 2010-11 budget of $16,252,158 is 1.79 percent lower than last year’s budget. It shows a reduction in five teaching positions, elimination of junior varsity football and junior varsity field hockey, two modified basketball coaches, an assistant modified wresting coach, the volleyball scorekeeper, summer drivers’ education and a handful of aides and other district staff positions.
With the proposed cuts, district residents can still expect an 8.8 percent increase in their taxes. Without the cuts, the tax levy would go up about 13 to 14 percent, according to board members. Those residing in New Lisbon would be hit the hardest with an increase of $1.46 per $1,000, meaning they can expect a $143 increase in taxes if owning a home valued at $100,000. Burlington residents can expect a $1.43 increase per $1,000, Middlefield residents a $1.21 increase per $1,000 and Hartwick and Otsego residents a $0.75 increase per $1,000.
The cuts in staff would most greatly affect the technology, business and practical arts programs. No longer offering French once current students finish up their sequence is also included in the proposed reductions. Latin and Spanish will continue to be taught.
According to the presentation, student enrollment in French has gone down during the last six years. In 2004-2005, 73 students took French and in 2009-10 49 students took advantage of the offering. AP French was offered in 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2008-09.
Student enrollment in technology courses has varied throughout the years. According to the presentation, at least 79 or more students took technology offerings from the 2004-05 school year to the 2008-09 school year. This school year, the enrollment dropped to 60 students.
According to Deb Miller, middle school teacher, 129 students have signed up to take technology classes next year. She said the cuts are incongruous with the board of education’s commencement goal to have students demonstrate a fundamental understanding in math, science and technology and an ability to utilize the facts, concepts, tools and skills in problem solving. It is reasonable to assume fewer students will not be able to afford college because expenses are on the rise and the state of the economy is not bright, said Miller. Students need the opportunity to get skill-based training for graduation credit that will enable them to enter employment after graduation, whether to start a career or support themselves through college, added Miller.
Enrollment in business courses plummeted significantly this school year with 53 students participating. Enrollment has varied from 73 to 106 students in the past five years.
The district is proposing to cut an elementary teacher position, which would affect class sizes.
When going over examples, the presentation showed that the higher grade levels would be impacted the most because of lower enrollment trends each year.
To view the charts to compare the difference (or the entire PowerPoint presentation) visit the district’s website, cooperstowncs.org, where there is a link to 2010- 11 budget information.
According to the presentation, in addition to the reductions reviewed at the March 3 board of education meeting, the district plans to evaluate changes in participation rates in various extra-curricular activities in order to reduce costs while not affecting offerings. The district’s goal is to look for the potential to save an additional $6,429.
A second presentation of the proposed 2010-11 budget will be held on March 17 at 7 p.m. The budget will be adopted on April 7 with a budget hearing scheduled for May 5.
A budget vote will be held in the Sterling Auditorium from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 18.
BY MICHELLE MILLER
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