Extra state aid boosts ACS budget

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By Pauline Liu
The Andes Central School District received news last Friday that it will be getting an additional $7,000 in state aid for its 2012-2013 budget.

This will mean savings for taxpayers. The additional state funding reduces the original tax levy increase from 1.36 percent to 1.13 percent. 

The Andes Board of Education had already approved the 2012-2013 budget when the district learned that it was receiving more state aid. District Superintendent Dr. Robert Chakar and District Treasurer Jan Stevens have been busily making adjustments to the budget to reflect the additional funding. 

“We had to redo the information that makes up the eight-step formula, looking at new revenues and debt ratios and while we rescued a quarter of one percent of our current tax levy, it changed the numbers and the formula,” Dr. Chakar said.

While the state-mandated two-percent property tax cap has been widely discussed in the news media, Dr. Chakar pointed out that the state has actually mandated an adjusted two percent tax levy cap, which is determined by an eight-step formula.  Using the formula provided by the state, the school district calculated the adjusted two percent tax levy cap not once, but twice, in order to account for the additional state aid.

According to Dr. Chakar, the total 2012-2013 budget is $ 3.64 million which is $29,000 less than the current budget. The total tax levy is $2.7 million with the state contributing  just under $700,000 in aid. “While the governor has shared and demonstrated that he has increased revenues, we’re still underfunded from what we were four years ago,” said Dr. Chakar. The state funding arrives in monthly installments and Dr. Chakar points out that there is no guarantee that the state won’t make mid-year cuts in school aid as it has in the past.

Dr. Chakar, who has been superintendent for more than three years, said that the school district has been fiscally conservative. “A lot of time, a lot of work, a lot of hands, the board has been working on this for months and months,” he said. As a result, he said there will be no staff reductions or facility reductions. “No shrinking of anything,” he said. “We’re continuing those education programs. Our children are still going on field trips.” The 38 members of the cast and crew from the school’s recent production of “Alice in Wonderland” will be going to see “Beauty and the Beast” at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady. 

The school, which has a reputation for its use of technology, now has more MacBook computers than it has students.  The good news is that enrollment is increasing. A few years ago, enrollment hovered around 100, but now it’s increased to 124. The Pre-K class has10 children, while the kindergarten class has seven students. Both are full-day classes. Since the first and second grades were small classes, they have been combined into one class of 10 students. 

In an effort to reduce costs, ACS shares occupation therapy, physical therapy and speech teacher with ONC BOCES. It has also hired a number of recently retired teachers to fill part-time teaching positions including retired science teachers, Alan Seidman and George Redden. who taught at Margaretville. “I think the board and the staff worked really well together to put together a nice education program opportunity for kids, my own daughter loves it,” said Dr. Chakar, whose daughter, Christina, attends kindergarten at ACS. “The small class size is still a wonderful, nurturing environment and we have a very respectful student body,” he added. 

The mild winter has resulted in what Dr. Chakar called, “give-back snow days,” since only one snow day was used in September and there were still five snow days  “built into” the school calendar. One snow day was used on March 30, the remaining snow give-back days are April 5, April 20, May 25 and May 29.    

According to Dr. Chakar, the changes in the budget will be detailed in the next board of education meeting which is scheduled for Monday, April 23 at 7 p.m. The district’s voters will be asked to go to the polls to approve the budget on Tuesday, May15.