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April 13, 2010 - 1:03pm

City schools' budget 'flat,' cuts proposed for teachers, coaches and aides

posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Board of Education.

The Batavia School Board met in the John Kennedy Elementary School cafeteria last night. Left to right: school board members Gary Stich and Gail Stevens, and BHS senior Sahil Jain, student ex-officio.

The superintendent of the Batavia City School District says a key goal of the proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year is to make cuts as need be "without hurting any student programs."

Yet it calls for fewer coaches and their support staff, and cutting teaching positions in each core subject as well as three aides. Decreased enrollment in secondary schools is partly to blame, according to Superintendent Margaret Puzio. There will be no transportation provided for summer school either.

The good news is that BOCES will be getting a 15-percent increase in funding.

Overall, Puzio said the school district projects a "flat budget" for the upcoming fiscal year, meaning minimal or no increase. Certain cuts to be made in order to make room for investments in other areas, according to the trustees.

District Business Manager Scott Rozanski attributes the stable budget to conservative financial practices in recent years, the availability of budget surpluses and the district's decision to pay for some expenses -- for example, construction work on the Administration Building's roof -- with reserves. These factors balance out with a slight decrease in state aid to keep the overall budget where it is now.

Here are some highlights of the budget meeting:

  • Almost all extracurricular and athletic activities that are now available will also be available next year. However, there may be fewer assistant coaches and support staff.
  • Some changes are going to be made in the elementary summer school programs. Transportation will not be provided for kids attending summer school; they will need to either walk or be driven by their parents. This year, summer school will focus exclusively on improving the reading skills of at-risk students and will consist of small classes. There will be six teachers in each school -- Jackson, John Kennedy and Robert Morris -- and a lot of small-group interaction.
  • Because of a significant decrease in enrollment projected at the secondary level, there will be staff cuts in each core subject. Puzio said that there are only about 160 students in the upcoming sixth grade class. The cuts will only effect teachers with the lowest seniority, and they will not lose their jobs if there are retiring teachers in their subject areas.
  • Three teacher aide positions will be cut, one from each elementary school.
  • There will be a 15-percent increase in the funding of BOCES services, including special, alternative and occupational education, and technology. Rozanski said that the district cut some technology expenses last year; this year, it will be able to "put new purchases back in and move forward with the wireless trend."

The budget's tax-rate information depends on factors that remain to be seen, and will therefore not be available until the fall.

The board unanimously approved the 2010-2011 budget, as well the election of BOCES Board Members. It also approved keeping the student ex-officio stipend so that the board will always have someone to keep them informed on what goes on in the schools.

The public can vote on the school board's budget from noon until 9 p.m. May 18 at one of three locations:

  • Jackson Elementary School, 411 South Jackson St.
  • Robert Morris Elementary School, 80 Union St.
  • Batavia Middle School, 96 Ross St.

Voters must live in the Batavia City School District and be registered to vote.

For more information, please contact the board office at 343-2480. 

ADDITIONAL NOTE

As the meeting came to a conclusion, Puzio distributed a letter from Genesee Valley BOCES Superintendent Michael Glover regarding Governor Patterson's school-aid cuts. According to Glover, these cuts affect less wealthy Upstate districts significantly while unfairly privileging wealthier Downstate districts (he cited Nassau County, Long Island, as an example). For more information on this, contact Rick Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium, at 315-749-3637, or e-mail <[email protected]>.

From left, board members Steven Hyde and Pat Burk, and Bobbi Norton, assistant to the superintendent.

Peter O'Brien
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How about cutting the cell phone tax?
John Roach
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When they hire a substitute teacher, the rate is about $75 per day. But if you,r a retired Batavia teacher, the rate is doubled. Why? Seems like a bit of waste here. I know School Board member Burke has two family members working for the district. Does anyone know how many other Board members have family working for the district also? I would think it's hard to make cuts in a system that has your family members working for it.
Richard Gahagan
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What exactly does the Administrator of Student Assessment/Data Analysis do? Seems to me they should be cutting administrative positions and salaries before they go after teachers.
Dave Meyer
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Richard, I've asked this question many times. That's the job that they gave to the former HS principal when she was 'promoted'.
Lorie Cook
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Why raise taxes at all when audits showed their budget surplus was way over the limit?
Mark Potwora
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Maybe if we all vote no even tho it a small increase and let them know that no increase at all will be tolerated...There is more cutting that should be done...Especially at the top..The city pulled the same thing by raising taxes 1%..And then tell us its the best they could do....Didn't the audit last year show that they over paid some teachers and like Lorie said that the surplus they have is over the limit..Vote No...Lets not forget the library budget..Even tho no increase its still to much to support.I think the rate is 1.50 per thousand..Why dont we vote on that budget at the same time we vote on the school budget..
Hey Mark, A couple of things. If you vote no on this budget, no one from the top will lose a job. In fact, because the spending is actually 0, they could technically still pass the budget as is. That being said if further cuts were to be made, it would happen to programs like music and sports. The over payment of teachers was miniscule and for the most part has already been paid back to the district. It would not affect anything the way we all would hope. Last, the Library is seperate from the school budget now. It was at the same time for forever, but the Library voted to detach just recently. Overall, I mirror your frustrations, but this is actually a fair budget. Notice I said fair and not good or great. They have made cuts to positions and other programs to keep it where it is, but I have to warn everyone, this will get worst. Next year and the year after you will get your wish. There will be larger cuts and possible closures if need be. The cutting from the top is not as big of pool as everyone is made to believe, but it will probably happen as well. For everyone who doesn't have children in school, you'll be happy. For us that do, we'll see the classrooms sizes grow. What that means, Mark, is that youug guys like me with a young family have been looking outside the area. I will not have my kids suffer because of bad policy making in Albany. I am not alone in this either. I afraid you will see more people leave when that happens and your taxes will go up anyway.
Thomas Mooney
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Many can be cut from the top , the board office is at full capacity.Also duplicate activities can be cut(indoor track,winter gaurd,jazz band ) .Less chaperones for events can be cut . Department budgets that are already excesive can be trimmed more than they have been .Restrict use of retired teachers used for subs . No sub coverage for teachers to correct tests all day and have lunch provided(the teacher aides can do this ) . No luncheons at all . Limit or get rid of outside users that do not pay and use facilities excessively. Limit off season sports training that use utilities at will.The use of more electronic communications , rather than print on paper .There is more , but this is a good start. I guess the board are saving these ideas for the budgets to come . Go figure!!!
Do you work at the Board Office Thomas? Are you in the schools? I'm just curious as you seem to have a laundry lists of things to get rid of. How often do these things happen and how much could it save? Do you know if the districts have done any of these yet? Who gets to decide what programs are no longer useful or duplicate? What is the criteria? I'm not trying to be rude by any means, but I am interested in your statements. If you have real information, then I would love to know it and ask.
bud prevost
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Is anyone else on here floored by the amount per student Genesee county schools spend? In their defense, they are in line with most NYS school districts, but it is still wrong! From the education.com website: Batavia,$15,663 per stdt,66% of which is for instruction Leroy, $12,530 63% Pavilion$14,189 61% Pembroke$12,254 61% I could go on, but I am feeling nauseous. I would love it if NYS would give my kid a voucher for $10,000 to go to private school. It would save the state money, and my child would benefit from a better education.
John Roach
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I vote no.
Mark Potwora
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Phil thanks for putting it in perspective..Seeing that you did sever as a budget ambassador you have more of a insight..I too am floored as is Bud by the per student amount.Why a 3000 dollar difference from what Leroy spends..You can go to GCC cheaper than that..And the federal government will give to tax credits..And spending over 30% of the budget amount on administration cost is big..There has to be more cuts to be made in that area as Tom said..
Richard Gahagan
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Funny thing is they spend all that money to educate kids then they become so gawg dang smart brilliant even once they finally decide to leave NY to advance their careers.
Hey I'm sure there are ways that there could be more savings! I would not argue that point. The bigger problem lies is in the cut for revenues are much higher than in potential saving without dramatically doing something. What I mean is either raising taxes or eliminating large quantities of positions. Bud, That is the third variation on that number that I have seen based on who is figuring it. Either way, it is too high. Guys, I sure don't have the magic answer on this one. There are a lot of costs that are forced upon these districts and some that I'm positive that we created ourselves. This year the have been able to maintain while starting to have to look at much harder decisions down the road. Next year will be very hard. I only ask that those of you that have these great ideas to please volunteer and get involved with the budget process next year. Ask these questions to those who are writing these budgets and let's see if can't find ways to save money while keeping our classroom sizes reasonable.
Sara Burk-Balbi
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John, To answer your question yes there is other school board members who have family that work in the school district but out of respect I will not name names. Seeing as you have targeted my family I will tell you this; though it would be hard and upsetting for both my brother and sister to loose their job, they would be the first ones to stand up and say they understand. Luckily, they are not loosing their job. I would think that the parents in this community would be happy to know that there is a family who cares about their children. Both my brother and sister had to work hard to get their jobs. Maybe even harder and continue to work hard. They are both extremely active in the school by coaching and being class/club advisers. Not to mention you find them both at a lot of school functions and sporting events. This community should be blessed to have 2 great employees that are dedicated to their children, who want to see them our children suceed and they enjoy doing it.
John Roach
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Sara, I didn't "target" your family. Your father is the only board member I know who has family working for the school. How good your brother and sister are at their job is not an issue. The question is how hard do board members cut when family are involved. I can bet you dimes to dollars that every board member denies family has anything to do with decisions, but my question was fair.
Dave Olsen
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John, Come on now, maybe you asked a fair question but when you mention someone by name, it's understandable why they would feel "targeted"
Bea McManis
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John's not so hidden agenda is to plant the seed. See Patrick's name on the ballot and remember he has family working in the school system. Coy but transparent.
John Roach
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Bea, Pat Burke and Mr. Mountain are running unopposed for the School Board, they win no matter what. And yes, I want people to start thinking about this issue when they vote.
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John, then why be so coy in your attempt to sully Mr. Burke's service to our community and school system. Why not just come out and say what you wanted to say. You were targeting Patrick. You knew it, and so did anyone reading it.
Thomas Mooney
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Why is there no term limit on school boards. When someone is on a board for as long as some board members have been , they tend to take on ownership . Also there should be no problem with board members family working for the schools as long as they (board member) exclude themselves from voting on any issues and or hiring of those family members.
Thomas Mooney
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The abuse of power needs to stop .Maybe that is why PB is targeted so often . Dedication is one thing , being dedicated so that one will gain something in return is another animal . Rub the backs of certain people and one will be rubbed back .
John Roach
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Bea, There is an inherent conflict of interest here. When members of the School Board have family members working for the school district, what is the incentive to hold down wages and benefits? If employees get more, their family gets more. Most people want their family to have more, right? Make too many cuts, and your kids, wife or husband, could be out of a job. Hold down wages, you might hurt family. There should be a policy that while a person is on the School Board, no immediate family members can be hired by the district while they serve. You can continue to think this is personal or some sort of conspiracy against Mr. Burke, but it's not. Bea, leaving Burke out of it, do you think the question was unfair?
Richard Gahagan
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Its just the way things have always been done in Batavia and its not just the school system. The phrase has always been....talk to so and so in whatever department "THEY CAN GET YOU IN".
Bea McManis
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John, This is a small community with a smaller number of people who are willing to give the time and energy to serve. While I understand your concern, I doubt that those who serve do so to feather their own family nests. As Sara said, "Seeing as you have targeted my family I will tell you this; though it would be hard and upsetting for both my brother and sister to loose their job, they would be the first ones to stand up and say they understand." Fair questions: Could it be that you fail to have the same outlook, as Patrick's family, regarding the possibility of getting cut if you were in that situation? If you were on the school board and if you had a family member(s) working in the school system, would you be more concerned for their jobs than for the good of the entire school system? Quite possibly you are presenting your own thoughts on how you would handle being on the school board and transfering them to those sitting on the board.
Thomas Mooney
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Bea , You are much more trusting person than I. Anyone can come on here and ay what they think other family members would say or do but actions speak for themselves . PB voted and keeps voting on issues that effect family employees . If he refraimed from voting on issues with family members , then we wouldn't be having this blog. It's well known fact that there is some power issues within the board . Mr. Pedro (School board pres.)should be making more statements than Mr. Burk , but the reality is Mr. Burk grabs every chance he can to get his name out there in the public.Is this all for the good of education or to benifit him and his family. You make the choice of what you believe in, but my opinion along many others is he does it for himself and family. Term Limit is the answer, along with limiting Excutive sessions , excluding board members from voting on all conflict of interest issues
John Roach
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Bea, You make my point why family members should not be allowed to be hired while another member is on the School Board. I take it you approve of family hiring. To answer your question, this is not about Burke, but the conflict of interest that is built into the system. If I was on the school board, I would push my idea that family could not be hired while I was on the board. Now answer my question. Is it fair to bring this policy up?
Mark Potwora
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I understand Johns point...When something comes up in front of city council on the Mall ..Mr. Bialkowski has been ask to refrian from voting because of his wife works there...I dont see this as anything against Mr.Burke's service to the school system..He should be commented for all his years of committment to the school system..Conflict of interest..That all John was saying..
C. M. Barons
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The conflict of interest provision for school board service prohibits a member from being an employee of the district he/she intends to serve for. If a personnel issue arose that represented a conflict of interest, the conflicted board member would have to recuse him/herself. In general, Board-level is at the end of any review process, and salary is generic to title and service. …As for voting down budgets. It appears that the regulations have changed- in the past a contingency budget prevented spending on books, new equipment, inter-scholastic athletics and certain transportation costs. Under current state law, school boards can submit a budget to voters a maximum of two times. If the proposed budget is defeated twice, the board must adopt a contingency budget. The board also has the option of going directly to a contingent budget immediately after the first budget defeat. Under a contingent budget, the district must cap spending at either 120 percent of the Consumer Price Index or 4 percent, whichever is lower. Items exempt from this cap are tax certiorari and other legal settlements, debt service (mortgage payments), and costs associated with enrollment growth. Under a contingent budget, the percentage of the budget devoted to administrative costs cannot increase from what it was in the prior year's budget or the last defeated budget, whichever is lower. Once a contingent budget is established, community residents are no longer allowed to petition boards of education to put additional items up for a separate vote.

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