Hundreds gathered together on Valentine’s Day to discuss topics very close to their hearts, Cazenovia Central School Districts’ programs and personnel. At 6:30 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Cazenovia High School Auditorium, students, parents, residents and school employees came out to voice their concerns and show their support at the most recent board of education meeting.
With the Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent budget proposal sending shockwaves through districts across the New York, Cazenovia schools are facing a deficit of $1.25 million and declining enrollment. Non-mandated positions and programs have been considered for reduction. Kindergarten and counseling services are not required by state regulations, even though many consider them to be vital
Several residents took the microphone and addressed the board, offering their insights to the ramifications of possible cuts and suggestions for alternative efforts to economize.
Department leaders Ron Luteran and Eric Jerabek were the first to speak. The two applauded the school for their “tradition of excellence” and quality of newly hired staff, and warned that saving money by increasing class sizes and decreasing staffing is an equation that will yield an inverse reaction.
“Our tradition of excellence has been based predominately on how well we connect with kids. We’ve had the ability to adapt our instruction skills so that the needs of the children are met,” Jerabek said. “With larger class sizes it’s harder to have the kids connect with us, and it’s harder to get the kids to connect with the material; that’s not to say we don’t try our hardest,”
Others addressed the importance of the agricultural, music, health and athletic departments, which could also face reductions. Several student-members of the Future Farmers of America spoke, as well as one of their agricultural science instructors, Mandi Millen.
Afraid the program will cease to exist in following years, Millen reminded listeners that New York’s agriculture of the highest-quality in the nation, and enrollment in agricultural classes, as well as participation in FFA, has been steadily increasing in recent years.
A number of current and graduated students took the microphone to support the position of their favorite English teacher, Thomas Murlin. A relatively new addition to the district, Murlin was hired three years ago. If 26 cuts were made to the teaching staff, which has been discussed as a possibility, Murlin’s position would be eliminated.
Assistant Superintendent Bill Furlong presented information on increasing costs and planned cost reductions, offering an explanation to where funds will be used. Gas prices, salaries, health insurance premiums and increasing retirement system costs for both teachers and employees are all on the rise, and adversely affecting the school’s finances.
“The total increases we’re seeing to our budget are $872,000, which coupled with the reduction of state aid leaves us with a budget deficit of $2.122 million,” Furlong said.
Different departments of the school district have been evaluated and a few areas have calculated some savings. Supply costs may be reduced by 25 percent, saving $60,000. Conference costs could be decreased by 50 percent, saving $30,000. Various changes to the athletic department, such as recycling jerseys and equipment can help reduce costs by 10 percent, saving the district $50,000.
While it was apparent that some board members disagreed what should be cut and why, they all agreed that developing the budget soon is a high-priority. Over the course of the next month, the board will finalize their plans for reductions. At the March 21 board of education meeting, a list of program cuts will be made available to those who attend. The following meeting has been moved to April 11, at which copies of the official budget will be available.