The Putnam Examiner

Carmel Board of Ed Preps Capital Projects, Budget

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The Carmel Board of Education continued its discussion on districtwide improvements along with the fourth installment of the 2013-2014 budget presentation during last week’s meeting.

The proposed improvements come in the form of two propositions for projects “related to improvements, renovations and new capability for all campuses” and “increased physical education space for all students and sports teams at the CHS campus.” Proposition 1 is estimated at $6,792,000 with Proposition 2 totaling an estimated $1,775,000.

While Proposition 2 focuses on an updated fitness center to be utilized by the high school’s sports teams and physical education classes, Proposition 1’s capital projects broadens its attention to all campuses. These improvements include security systems with card readers at all school buildings, wireless technology and such infrastructure updates as the GFMS parking lot and renovations to the electrical, ventilation and boiler systems at Carmel High School.

The board will use its March 19 meeting to decide when the public will vote for both propositions. Votes on the propositions will mostly like take place in May, corresponding with the 2013-2014 budget vote.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Ryan continued his presentation of the budget at the March 5 meeting, which examined a wide range of programs and services necessary in enhancing a student’s experience within the Carmel Central School District.

The current budget up for consideration rings in at about $114.9 million–$1.9 million above the maximum allowable budget of $113 million, per the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.

“We’re wrestling with a $1.9 million cap and working on the reductions we need to reach that under the legislated tax levy cap,” Ryan said. “It’s a tremendous challenge, and it’s a battle internally within our operations.”

Ryan said the district was not only dealing with the tax levy cap enacted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2011 but also with the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), which draws aid funds away from school districts to compensate for New York State’s budgetary shortfalls.

According to Ryan’s presentation, the district has lost $12,754,873 in state aid directly due to GEA since it was introduced by former governor David Paterson during the 2009-2010 budget season.

“We’re a revenue stream for [New York State],” Ryan said. “We find it very difficult to close the gaps we’ve been presented, and yet we continue to get less and less from the state–it’s a shell game in terms of what’s proposed for us, what’s given to us on paper.”

Though the board is waiting for its work session to lay out particular numbers and cuts, Ryan’s presentation outlined preliminary strategies for the 2013-2014 budget. For the high school, the board is examining electives and the possibility of moving toward an 8-period schedule; the middle school will also take into account electives, the seventh and eighth grade sports team structure and enrollment based reductions; and the elementary schools will evaluate its reading teaching assistants, music and art reductions and class size modifications.

Staff-wise, the board is examining the attrition of two positions, any administration vacancies, the restructuring of the athletic director position, building administration, the assistant superintendent and other support staff positions. Co-curricular clubs and activities, interscholastic sports and web-based educational programs are facing $20,000 in cuts.

“You take a look at that distribution and you ask yourself the question of ‘what does it take?'” Ryan said. “Well by and large we’re looking at staffing or the reduction of programs and services.”

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