AREA NEWSThe Putnam Examiner

Putnam Valley Teachers Agree to Freeze Pay

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Putnam Valley Central School District Superintendent Barbara Fuchs opens up a meeting to discuss how the district plans to eliminate  alt=
Putnam Valley Central School District Superintendent Barbara Fuchs opens up a meeting to discuss how the district plans to eliminate $1.4 million from the 2012-2013 school budget.

By agreeing to freeze the contractual increases to their salaries for one year, the teachers of the Putnam Valley Central School District saved the jobs of four of their colleagues that would have been included in cuts to balance next school year’s budget, Superintendent Barbara Fuchs announced at a Board of Education meeting on March 22.

“In doing this they have helped us save teaching positions…and they clearly showed that they heard our public and our public said…you need to help us,” Superintendent Fuchs said. “I sincerely want to thank our teachers for what they have done….we know it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but they really came through for the district, and for our kids.”

The proposed 2012-2013 budget presented to the Board of Education calls for a year-to-year spending increase of just under $130,000, achieved by cutting spending by an estimated total of $1.4 million.

All told, the teachers’ pay freeze reduced spending to operate Putnam Valley’s schools next year by $341,000.

But in order to totally close that gap, the additional budget cuts included the elimination of five positions, consisting of two teaching positions at the elementary school, two groundskeepers and one bus driver at an estimated cost savings, including salaries and benefits, of more than $460,000.

Superintendent Fuchs said that the elimination of the two elementary school positions already had been proposed last year as a way to fund the full-day kindergarten program after the one-time state aid no longer existed to pay for the expanded program.

District Athletic Director Peter Kuczma said that spending on the student athletic program would be reduced by $47,000, including a proposal to eliminate a 5:30 p.m. late bus run, the elimination of the junior varsity cheer-leading coach based on lack of student participation, and the reduction of modified football coaches from two to three.

A seven percent cut was applied to purchasing supplies and materials across the board, including for cleaning supplies, first aid supplies, light bulbs, ceiling tiles, office supplies, computer software, and athletic equipment.

In addition, the budget lines for all school clubs and for all school theater productions were also cut by the same amount.

To partially subsidize this loss, it was decided the ticket price for student theater productions would be raised from $5 to $10 next school year.

Similarly, in order to further reduce spending next year, there will no longer be a custodian on duty during the weekends at the district’s schools and if outside groups request to use the facilities during that time, they will have to pay the over-time for a custodian.

“Payment from outside groups comes from parents, who are also taxpayers,” said school board trustee Jeanine Rufo in response.

Superintendent Fuchs said that because of the financial challenges the district faced, the cuts were necessary.

“Here is the bottom line: We are going to make some cuts. We have no choice. So, things are not going to look exactly the same,” Fuchs said.

Because of declining student enrollment, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Technology Paul Lee said another $50,000 could be saved by not purchasing 50 laptops next year.

On the revenue side, the proposed 2012-2013 budget calls for the use of $925,000 from the district’s fund balance, the same amount of which was used to create this school year’s budget. This will leave an estimated $1.4 million remaining in that reserve. By building this amount into the budget proposal for next school year, the school district will have three choices during the creation of the 2013-2014 budget: use another $925,000 from the fund balance, find revenues from elsewhere to fill that gap, or eliminate some or all of that spending from the annual budget.

Assistant Superintendent Lee said that according to the dictates of the new tax levy cap legislation, if the proposed budget, which entails a 1.97 percent increase in the tax levy, is voted down a first time, and then a second time, by district voters this spring that the school district will have to revert to a zero percent increase in spending that would come with severe consequences.

“We have already cut down to the bone. To come up with $675,000 more [in cuts] would be quite gruesome,” Lee said, adding that under a zero percent increase contingency budget fees for the after-hours use of school buildings and athletic fields would increase significantly.

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