A handful of people gathered in the Cooperstown Middle/High School cafeteria last Wednesday for a public hearing on the district’s proposed budget.

School officials have been rigorously tweaking the proposed budget for the 2010-11 school year in hopes of not putting too much burden on district taxpayers, but at the same time, not compromising the quality of education provided to students. When the district began formulating a spending plan for 2010-11 it was looking at a tax increase on nearly 14 percent.

On April 7, the board of education adopted a proposed budget of $15,965,503, which reflects a 3.5 percent decrease over the 2009-10 budget of $16,548,922. If approved, taxpayers can expect to see a 5.8 percent increase in their taxes. District residents will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed budget on Tuesday, May 18, form 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Middle/High School auditorium.

Board President Anthony Scalici said this has been a year like no other for New York’s public schools where an unprecedented state deficit brought districts major reductions in state aid. He said Cooperstown’s finances were made worse by a change in how aid formulas are calculated. Then, last year’s promise of a second installation of federal stimulus was reversed, he said.

According to a presentation given at the public hearing, the governor’s reduction formula reduced Cooperstown’s projected state aid by $1,061,624, a 13.55 percent decrease.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act restored $360,443, but the district began its budget planning process with a deficit of $701,181 in revenue.

The board met as a group and in committee during the past few months collaborating with administrators and business officials in order to examine spending patterns, enrollment as it impacts class size, educational requirements, educational priorities, extracurricular opportunities and student involvement in both class electives and after school activities.

According to Scalici, board members engaged the public in December for input on priorities knowing what was to come and, again, as the board progressed toward a final spending plan.

``Our objective was to find the best balance between a program of education that met the expectations of Cooperstown students sand parents while minimizing what we knew would be a difficult increase in property taxes,’’ said Scalici.

The proposed budget included the following:

Teaching positions

  •  Elimination of two elementary classroom positions;
  •  Elimination of one business education position;
  •  Elimination of a .6 FTE vocal music position;
  •  Reduction of a foreign language position to .5 FTE;
  •  Reduction of a technology education (industrial arts) position to .4 FTE;
  •  Increase an English position from .6 FTE to full time;
  •  Add a full time educational technology specialist teaching position.

These changes reflect total savings of $243,907.

Support positions

  •  Elimination of threeteacher aide positions;
  •  Elimination of one school monitor position;
  • Reduction of a clerical position to .6 FTE; 
  • Elimination of the high school ETC coordinator position;
  • Reduction of BOCES purchased services. These changes reflect total savings of $169,500. Athletics/extra-curricular positions
  • Elimination of JV levels for baseball and football,
  •  Reduction of cocoaching positions for modified basketball;
  • Elimination of the assistant modified wrestling coach and volleyball scorekeeper;
  •  Reduction of co-advisors in a series of extracurricular offerings.

These changes reflect total savings of $25,226.

Scalici said the board’s first responsibility as a governing body for CCS is to ensure the district provides educational opportunity that prepares young people to enter adulthood with the basic educational and social skills needed to begin productive lives.

``That is no small order,’’ he said.

In terms of what was preserved in the district’s overall program of education, Scalici said he feels assured that students will continue to be offered quality opportunities.

``In terms of the proposed tax levy increase, it was a far less objective decision considering the overall financial conditions and diverse financial means of working people and those on fixed incomes throughout the district,’’ said Scalici.

On May 18, district residents will also be able to vote on a proposition to borrow money to purchase a bus and for two three-year seats on the board of education.

Current Cooperstown BOE Vice President Mary Leonard and incumbent Paula Greene will both be running for a second term uncontested.