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April 1, 2010

Milford Central School adopts proposed 2010-11 budget

BY MICHELLE MILLER STAFF WRITER According to Milford Central School Superintendent Peter Livshin, the district had a goal of getting its tax levy increase down to zero.

This goal was not quite met when board of education members adopted a proposed budget of $9,305,874 for the 2010-11 school year during last week’s meeting. However, district taxpayers will see less than a 1 percent increase _ a .35 percent_ in the tax levy.

Livshin said the proposed budget includes the district’s summer special education program, which the district may get money back for depending on the governor’s special education refund proposal.

In order to cut the proposed budget, board members decided to phase out French. Students currently taking French will have the opportunity to continue with their sequence, but under the proposal, students will not be able to begin French starting next year.

There are no substantial immediate savings with the French teacher going to .8 next year, according to BOE President Tom Brennan. However, he said board members are anticipating the need for additional savings throughout the next several years. He said this will allow the district to obtain those savings over time with no impact to students taking French when the savings are obtained with limited impact to future students given enrollment trends.

``Obviously, we are disappointed with reducing choice in this area _ at least in the short term,’’ said Brennan.

The district has also eliminated a technology teacher. According to Brennan, the district will provide mandated curriculum with current faculty.

``BOCES can provide to our students much of the additional curriculum we are currently providing in-house,’’ said Brennan, who said the district is seeking to avoid duplication. ``We will actually be seeking to expand the scope of technology offerings through alternative arrangements.’’

There will be reductions in the number of staff MCS obtains through BOCES. MCS will also be reducing staff and some services that were funded with stimulus money last year. For example, the district will be eliminating a .8 elementary librarian position that was created because of a three-year grant. According to Livshin, MCS was under no obligation to keep the position, but did so for the benefit of the students. The district extended the offering by at least two years after the grant ran out, said Livshin.

MCS will also be eliminating two licensed teaching assistant positions and several assistant coaching positions, according to Livshin.

Brennan said the district hopes to see savings next year from two retirements and an approved leave of absence for an elementary teacher. Livshin said the president’s signing of a new health care bill may have a significant impact on the expense of health insurance. He said under the new bill, those 26 and younger that do not have health insurance or a job that provides it will be eligible to obtain it through their parents’ coverage. This may have little or a huge impact on school districts, said Livshin.

Brennan said savings obtained from aggressively managing this year’s budget and greater than expected reimbursements in certain budget categories is permitting the district to increase the level of reserves being used this year to reduce the tax levy.

``We have attempted to look at the budget as a three year project,’’ said Brennan. ``In this budget, the board has sought to provide as much relief as we can to Milford taxpayers given current economic conditions without compromising on the excellence of the Milford educational program and without risking the district’s financial position.’’

Brennan said board members expected this year’s process to be painful but manageable. However, he said it has been more painful than imagined given aid cuts that fell into the district’s ``worst case’’ scenario.

``We are under no illusion that next year will be easier,’’ said Brennan. ``But while there may be disagreement with individual decisions, which is healthy and to be expected, everyone in Milford wants the best for the kids of our community and are focused on addressing the significant challenges we will be facing over the next several years.’’

A budget hearing has been scheduled for May 10 at 7 p.m. in the performing arts center. Community members will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed budget and for those seeking a seat on the board of education from 2-8 p.m. outside the performing arts center on May 18. According to Livshin, there are three vacant seats on the board.