Staff, Programs On Chopping Block For Lakeland In 2013-14

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From left, Lakeland school board member Carol Ann Dobson, board President Elizabeth Kogler and Schools Superintendent George Stone at Thursday night's preliminary budget hearing. Photo Credit: Brian Marschhauser

SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – A projected multimillion-dollar deficit will force the Lakeland Central School District to strongly consider cutting programs and staff in the 2013-14 budget, Superintendent George Stone said.

“We have cut in the past few years much of the low-hanging fruit that exists,” Stone said at Thursday night’s preliminary budget hearing. “Basically, as a business, personnel is 70 to 80 percent of our business. So we are talking about potential significant cuts to staffing and other programs unless we can continue to find creative ways to solve our budget issues.”

Stone said the district has fallen on hard financial times because of unfunded mandates from the state, reduced state aid, increased district contributions for pensions and health care, limits on revenue, and increasing fuel and energy costs.

“Even the greatest financial wizards can’t prevent the inevitable,” said Stone, who projected the district’s deficit for 2013-14 at $2.3 million to $3.3 million.

Stone said the district intends to stretch its budget to the limit and will ask for the maximum property tax levy increase the law will allow. New York implemented a 2 percent cap on the annual tax levy increase in 2011.

While not ideal, Stone said, giving employees incentives to retire could help the district curb its costs.

“There are a significant number of employees that are eligible to retire,” Stone said. “These are obviously master educators, dedicated employees. We wish there were other ways that we can solve these problems. But the fact is that last year’s incentive saved us $1 million. We need to try and do even better if we can this year.”

Freshman sports teams and BOCES' walkabout were mentioned by Stone as programs that may not be financially viable for the district anymore.

Stone said security upgrades remain a high priority in the wake of last month’s Newtown school shooting, but budget restrictions will limit how much the schools can actually do.

“Safety and security of students and staff will always be my number one concern,” he said. “Obviously attempting to make major security upgrades in a budget that has a deficit of this number is not going to be something that we can easily do.”

Lakeland’s Board of Education will continue the 2013-14 budget discussion Feb. 7 at the Administration Building, 1086 E. Main St., Shrub Oak.

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Comments (6)

Howaboutthisjo:

Don't you believe Copper Beech is overwhelmed!! And don't you believe that some children can go to Peekskill and Yorktown to make it even? That would make an impact on our kids. As for parent volunteers .. Good luck. As I said volunteers need incentives. Like tax breaks or internships. Teachers need parent evaluations. I don't think cutting out the MUSIC programs is a good idea. I also think that parents should pay by the hour after school on Saturday and Sunday for home work help... It's too much to deal with at home. That revenue should go to the safety enforcement. Also the monies from the gun consumers should go to the schools.

dchavarriat:

Not for nothing, but until you walk a mile in an educator's shoes don't judge. Teachers need to live and support families just like everyone else. They are there to educate your children and grandchildren. I don't think they are simply "double dipping". passing the load to other districts (namely Peekskill) who can not afford the budget either, will not solve the problem. Clearly those kids will suffer the same fate either way. Truth is, the government needs to stop giving out money to car companies and take education seriously. What happens when these kids are not properly educated? They become criminals! That being said, making after school programs cost the parents is a good idea to an extent. But, to say let the programs compete with the dance schools and karate is a little sad. Does anyone value education or schools anymore? If not, then send your kids to private school and the district can save money there. Come guys! This is our youth and the future. Do you really not think it is worth it?

Soren Kirkus:

dchavarriat: Here's what we do:

1. Triple the salaries of every school teacher. None of them should be making less than six figures. Theirs is the most important job in society. To that end, allow the schools to fire the teachers who under-perform regardless of their tenure, and monetarily reward the over-achievers and innovators

2. Eliminate all tax-payer supported teacher pensions. There is no reason the citizenry should have to pay for their retirement, especially when you reference (1.) above. We should pay for teachers *when they teach our kids in our towns*, not when they are sunning themselves in Florida and haven't been in a classroom in ten years. These union pensions are inevitably the most expensive item on any school board budget.

3. Make every after-school activity be supported by the parents of the participating student, from Football to Theater to Chess Club. Watch your local small businesses catering to children's activities (not to mention private academic tutoring services) flourish.

Costs go down. Test scores go up. Businesses prosper. And everybody wants to become a teacher.

Happy to help...

Uarestuck:

Well,, volunteers need incentives like an internship or an elder care watch program.. Ect... However I believe if Vancortlandtville elementary split into a Peekskill school and Ben Franklin split into Yorktown district .. Maybe COPPER BEECH could prepare the kids better for high school and Lakeland school district cold better save money

Soren Kirkus:

It's simple: start charging the students for whatever after school activities in which they participate, as the catholic schools do.

Solicit volunteers from among parents to run the activities, as opposed to the current boondoggle of double-dipping teachers drawing two salaries.

As it is now, the after school activities are taxpayer-funded competitors to the local dance, karate, *baby sitting* and other small local businesses aimed at youth. Let the taxpayers fund the academics, and the parents of participating students fund the after school activities.

sayitsnotso:

Does this mean no mega million dollar auditorium and football fields? Everything you say is correct the savings would be enormous.

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