In October 2011, the building administrators, Board of Education and district administrators began developing a budget for 2012-2013. The district usually begins this process in January. However, in anticipation of a substantial reduction in revenues, we began the process earlier in order to have adequate time to make a thorough examination of all budget components and to research opportunities for cost savings.

We anticipate a budget gap of approximately $6 million. We anticipate a decrease in revenue, including the following: $223,437 less in county sales tax, $498,760 less in PILOT monies, and elimination of Federal Jobs Fund money (the current school year’s amount is $1.8 million). The district began the budget process with the assumption that state aid will remain flat year-over-year. We will not receive our projected state aid figure until the end of January.

As we develop the budget, we feel it is very important as well as fiscally responsible to consider every aspect of how the district does business to find cost savings opportunities, including looking at how declining enrollment impacts day-to-day operations and decisions. Over the past nine years, we have been carefully monitoring decreasing enrollment in our elementary schools that is consistent with enrollment decreases across Central New York. During the 1995-96 school year, elementary enrollment was 2,788. This school year it is 2,383. This loss of roughly 400 students is the approximate enrollment of some of our current elementary schools. At our highest enrollment, the district had over 500 students in its elementary schools.

In August 2011, the district began soliciting the involvement of community and staff members through the district’s newsletter, website, email news service and items in local newspapers (including the Post Standard’s website and Neighbors Northwest and the Baldwinsville Messenger) to volunteer to serve on the district’s Facilities Feasibility Study Committee. The committee was established to explore building usage based on enrollment trends. This 60-member committee, comprised of community members, staff members, administrators and Board of Education members has been meeting since the end of October to study enrollment trends and the financial aspects of potentially closing a school. The four board members who sit on the committee have been reporting the committee’s activities at monthly meetings.

Closing a school has financial implications for the 2012-2013 budget. Closing an elementary school could result in a savings of roughly $1.1 million. The committee has narrowed its focus to Elden Elementary School and Van Buren Elementary School because they are the oldest buildings of the district’s five elementary schools.

I want to stress that no decision regarding closing a school has been made or will be made until the Board of Education has thoroughly reviewed the committee’s information, as well as other cost saving options to fill the budget gap. From now through the beginning of April, the board will be looking at various cost saving options, from program reductions to closing a school.

At the Board of Education’s January 23, 2012 meeting, the entire Board of Education will be provided with an overview of the data that the committee has studied. This information will be included in the board’s dialogue regarding cost saving measures that will be considered as we prepare a budget for our taxpayers. The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Durgee Junior High School cafeteria.

Budget presentations made to the Board of Education appear on our website. I will continue to keep the community informed of the board’s discussions on matters being considered, as well as any decisions being made.

Jeanne Dangle
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