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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Sewanhaka schools:$4.1 million in cuts projected to meet cap
Proposal includes eliminating up to 20 teaching positions
Courtesy Sewanhaka schools
Dr. Ralph Ferrie

Sewanhaka Central High School District officials are projecting budget cuts of $4.1 million in programs and personnel at the district’s five high schools as they finalize the 2014-15 spending plan in anticipation of an April 3 vote by the Board of Education.

The proposed reductions include the elimination of up to 20 teaching positions, one administrative position and one assistant principal. The total budget is projected to increase by $6.4 million, to $178.2 million, and $4.6 million of the increase is earmarked for employee benefits. District officials point to large increases in retirement and health insurance costs as the main drivers of that increase.

Eliminating the teaching positions would save the district an estimated $1.8 million. There is also discussion of doing away with one department chair in each school by combining the duties of the art and music chairs.

According to the state’s three-year-old tax cap law, the district’s maximum allowable tax levy increase for 2014-15 is 1.56 percent. The projected cuts would allow the district to meet the cap and to pass the spending plan with a simple majority vote. If there were no cuts, the budget would necessitate a 4.7 percent tax levy increase, and require a supermajority to pass.

“We are not proposing exceeding the cap or looking for a supermajority,” said Cheryl Champ, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Sewanhaka Board of Education President David Fowler agreed, telling the Herald that “the board is not, as far as I can see, going to attempt to pierce the cap.”

Superintendent Dr. Ralph Ferrie said that the final dollar figure for the cuts would be contingent on the state aid the district receives. It has received $27.8 million in aid this year, and the estimated increase for next year is just under $203,000. In January, Ferrie said that state aid “definitely needs to be higher than $28 million,” but district officials look back with envy at the more than $30.5 million the school received in 2009-10 — a total that would slash the cuts planned for 2014-15 to $1.63 million.

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