West Genesee considers salary freeze

After hearing of Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed tax cap, West Genesee Superintendent Chris Brown started to look harder at ways to save the district money.

Cuomo proposed capping property tax at 2 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower, and Brown estimates that inflation will be at around 1 percent by February.

A 1 percent tax cap would amount to a $4.5 million dollar gap in the budget, Brown said. The superintendent has asked union officials to consider freezing the salaries of all district employees, including his own. Brown said the freeze would save the district, which is staffed with around 800 employees, an estimated $900,000, leaving a remaining gap of $3.5 million.

"[The salary freeze is] an option we're exploring, but it's one of many options that we're going to explore to close a gap like that," Brown said.

"When I put out my note to the staff I said I will set the tone from the top," he added. "And of course I'll freeze my pay, and I'm asking them to do the same."

Brown said a salary freeze could save the district a minimum of 23 positions. He said 42 staff reductions were made last year.

In his 11 years as a superintendent, this is the most difficult budget year Brown has ever faced. He said the next closest was in 2002, when state aid to schools in New York State was frozen.

"But that recovered really quickly; this one 's not going to recover as quickly," Brown said. He sees New York State's current fiscal crisis as more of a global problem than a state problem.

"The market and things we need to generate income aren't turning around as fast as they did before," Brown said.

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