Stimulus funding improves budget outlook for Cal-Mum

   Some are calling it a band aid on the state’s budget wounds, but the $145,000 Title I and IDEA funding that Cal-Mum Central School expects to receive as a result of President Obama’s federal stimulus package, resulted in the reinstatement of three teaching positions slated to be reduced in the 2009-2010 school year, announced Superintendent of Schools David V. Dinolfo at the February 24, 2009 school board meeting. The additional funding restores a full time middle/high school counselor, a high school science teacher and a middle school reading teacher. Superintendent of Schools David V. Dinolfo said it is possible that additional stimulus money may be coming to Cal-Mum that could restore some additional staff positions. The faculty reductions were first announced in February in response to Governor David Paterson’s proposed budget that included deep cuts in school aid and prior to knowledge of the president’s federal stimulus package.

   The board reviewed the third budget document, which includes across the board spending cuts and the reduction of three other positions to half time. Board President Jay Jones says the district is facing two issues, cuts in state aid and declining enrollment. Some of the proposed reductions, including faculty, are in response to lower enrollment and some to the cuts in state aid. Jones says the board must be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers.

   "We are reviewing all facets of the budget and every program K-12 looking for ways to reduce spending and still preserve our core programs, the base of an excellent educational system, in place for our students," Jones explained.

   The budget proposal does include funding for the district’s one-year old pre-kindergarten program, which has some residents asking why. The board discussed three options for the pre-k program: keep the program as is, discontinue the transportation or eliminate the entire pre-k program from the 2009-2010 budget.

   Two residents attending the meeting asked the board and superintendent to spell out the costs of the pre-k program, which includes bus transportation for the four-year olds to and from school. They contend that eliminating the pre-kindergarten program from the budget would further reduce the budget increase to tax payers and pointed to the established nursery school in Caledonia, as a viable alternative for preschoolers.

   The district annually receives a $64,480 state grant to help fund the $151,000 pre-kindergarten program. Eliminating the program entirely from next year’s budget could result in the reduction of an elementary teaching position and reduce the tax levy increase by one-half percent. The board reviewed the successes from the program’s first year but made no decision that night to make any changes to it despite remarks from some board members who said they believe many residents in the community do not support the pre-k program.

   Jones told the County News that the potential budget reductions do not suggest that any one program is more or less important than another.

   "The pre-kindergarten program, like all of our programs, is included in our overall review. It’s not a decision of does pre-k or some other program stay or go. We must be fiscally responsible while maintaining the programs that are the basis for the outstanding reputation this school district has earned."

   Dinolfo said new information regarding additional stimulus funding is coming every week and will keep all budget issues on the table for review.

   "Let’s wait and see so that the board makes the right decisions," he said.

   Aside from budget discussions, the board received an update from Christa Construction project managers on the EXCEL project work being done on campus. Beginning March 16, some elementary classrooms will be relocated so that work on the heating units can be accomplished. The middle school gymnasium is now closed for extensive renovations as well.

   The building principals reported on the success of the faculty/staff development days. Wellness Day included guest presentations from Wegmans, Livingston County Health Department, Mental Health, the Genesee Valley Health Partnership, Finger Lakes Organ and Tissue Donation and a variety of presenters focusing on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. Physical Educator Lee Staley organized Wellness Day.

   Kathleen Brown coordinated a technology staff development day, which offered a variety of training sessions including Activboard strategies and instruction in software programs such as Inspiration, Moviemaker, Word, Excel and others.


CMCS reduces budget gap by cutting teachers

   New York State’s economic woes have school districts across the state struggling to prepare next year’s budget based upon projections of significantly less state aid. Many schools are facing a potential six-digit budget deficit as a result.

   Caledonia-Mumford Central School says the cuts in state aid coupled with the trend of declining enrollment, are behind the district’s proposal to eliminate two full time teaching positions and reduce another five to halftime. The announcement was made at the January 27, 2009 school board meeting.

   The district has been studying enrollment data and finds there is a connection between a weak economy in Western New York and declining enrollment. Based on the study, enrollment at Cal-Mum is projected to decline another 3 percent per year for the next three years before leveling off in 2011-2012.

   "We’re looking at the number of teachers we need to fulfill the academic needs," Superintendent of Schools David V. Dinolfo said.

   With the district looking at a potential budget gap next year of $849,873, examining staffing needs is just one area of the 2009-2010 budget that the superintendent and board of education reviewed while preparing the first draft. Dinolfo outlined a multi-tiered approach to reducing the projected budget gap, including using money from the district’s reserve funds, eliminating positions through attrition, imposing a 20 percent across the board cut in requisition spending, implementing ways to save on energy costs, cuts to BOCES services, forego technology purchases for next year and eliminating sports with low enrollments.

   The plan causing the most attention is Dinolfo’s proposed reduction in work force plan, which abolishes positions currently occupied by staff. Due to the current economic conditions and the lower enrollment projections, he recommended abolishing a full time reading position and a teaching assistant. He further recommended reducing to half time teaching positions in social studies, French, science and physical education and a middle school counseling position. Dinolfo projects this reduction in work force will save the district $219,873. Further reductions are projected for the 2010-2011 school year.

   "The priority for the district is to maintain good, cost effective class sizes.
I wouldn’t make these recommendations to reduce teachers if it impacted class size," Dinolfo told the board.

   Discussions also focused on what further actions the district can take to address the projected lower enrollment. The superintendent said the next step requires structural changes such as to the master schedule and the sharing of teachers across the three school buildings.

   "Budget decisions and the use of time go together. The district does not have a space problem, we have a time problem," he commented, adding that it may take two years to implement all of the corrective actions.

   School Board President Jay Jones says the board has been watching enrollment data for the past several years and preparing how to respond. This year it just happens to be on the heels of economic short falls.

   "We are overstaffed, regardless of the economy. We started looking at this last year and how we could keep the core of our programs in place with fewer students available to take them," Jones said.

   The board and the superintendent will work together over the next several weeks to look for additional ways to reduce spending and also to find innovative ways to continue offering the best possible program to the students. Jones acknowledged that these are difficult times for school districts and says they need the community to work with school officials and be educated in the process as they work through this time of change.