For the second straight year, jobs are on the line in the proposed school budget.
Superintendent Ralph Napolitano laid out an $89.9 million spending plan for 2010-11 that would cut 43 staff positions, including 27 layoffs. With enrollment declining, a school closing and class sizes projected to hold constant, Napolitano says the cuts are necessary.
If approved, the budget would raise the tax rate by 1.5 percent and raise spending by $83,000 or 0.09 percent. The proposal anticipates a $1.4 million cut in state aid.
In addition to shuttering French Hill Elementary School in the hopes of leasing it to an outside tenant, Napolitano’s budget also eyes savings by eliminating modified sports. That would save about $75,000 alone.
Between that and the modest tax rate, vocal taxpayer advocate Ed Ciffone finds little to protest. Ciffone is withholding judgment, though, until state aid numbers come in.
“The way the budget is right now, it’s fairly good,” Ciffone said. “It’s lower than it’s ever been, but what’s going to happen when they get the state aid? They’re going to spend it.”
He’d rather see any aid applied to further cut the tax rate.
During the 2009 budget process, $1.3 million in stimulus funds prevented all but a handful of 45 planned layoffs. Officials aren’t banking on that kind of cash infusion this time around.
“It’s absolutely not going to come through like it did last year,” school board President Jackie Carbone said.
Administrators had been tasked with looking for savings in every line in the budget and held nothing back, Carbone said. She criticized a dysfunctional state budget process that keeps local districts in the dark about state aid.
“It makes it very hard because we’re the last group before the taxpayer asking for money,” she said. “We’re also the only budget that gets voted on.”
French Hill’s closing will save the district $1.2 million this year. As it did last year, the district also will apply $1.4 million in savings to the budget to offset the tax rate.
“It’s an extremely modest tax rate, but the thing I’m most happy about is programs have really not been affected,” Carbone said.
It’s not clear exactly where the staff cuts will come from, through Napolitano has said no single area will bear the brunt. More than a third of the cuts are projected to be made via attrition, meaning staff who retire or take leave won’t be replaced.
Enrollment is down by 400 students over the last six years, and officials project it to drop by another 600 students over the next decade. Seventy fewer students are expected in the fall compared to the current year.
The school board is slated to adopt a budget on April 12. A special meeting is set for April 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Mildred E. Strang Middle School, 2701 Crompond Road, to allow further public input.