BY MICHELLE MILLER
Members of the Milford Central School Board of Education have been working with the district’s newly formed teacher’s association on possible budget cuts.
According to Superintendent Peter Livshin, the goal is to get the tax levy down to 0 percent. However, he said that figure may not be completely possible and district residents are more likely to see a 1 percent or less increase.
As of now, Milford Central School is looking at a proposed budget of $9,423,083 for the 2010-11 school year. This is a 1.66 percent increase compared to the 2009-10 budget.
Livshin said he is anticipating having to spend more money for the summer piece of the district’s special education program, but is still waiting to hear about the governor’s special education refund proposal. The board of education is considering phasing out French. BOE President Tom Brennan said board members are committed to ensuring that all students currently taking French have the opportunity to continue with their sequence. He said under the proposal, students will not be able to begin French starting next year.
``There are not substantial immediate savings with our French teacher going to .8 next year,’’ wrote Brennan via e-mail. ``However, we are anticipating the need for additional savings over the next several years and this will allow us to obtain those savings over time with no impact to students taking French when the savings are obtained; and limited impact to future students given enrollment trends.’’
``Obviously, we are disappointed with reducing choice in this area _ at least in the short term,’’ added Brennan. Brennan said the district expects to eliminate a technology teacher and provide mandated curriculum with current faculty.
``BOCES can provide to our students much of the additional curriculum we are currently providing in-house,’’ said Brennan, who said the district is seeking to avoid duplication. ``We will actually be seeking to expand the scope of technology offerings through alternative arrangements.’’
There will be reductions in the number of staff MCS obtains through BOCES, according to Brennan. He said MCS will also be reducing staff and some services that were funded with stimulus money last year. For example, the elimination of the elementary librarian position was discussed at the March 11 board of education meeting. Although members of the Milford Teacher’s Association (MTA) encouraged board members not to cut the position, Livshin said the position was created because the district was given a three year- grant to fund it. He said MCS was under no obligation to keep the position but did so for the benefit of the students. The district extended the offering by at least two years after the grant ran out, said Livshin.
Brennan said the district is also proposing to eliminate several assistant coaching positions in order to cut down on costs. He said MCS will also see savings next year from two retirements and an approved leave of absence for an elementary teacher.
``We have attempted to look at the budget as a three year project,’’ said Brennan. ``In this budget, the board has sought to provide as much relief as we can to Milford taxpayers given current economic conditions without compromising on the excellence of the Milford educational program and without risking the district’s financial position.’’
According to Brennan, board members believe they can accomplish that goal. Brennan said savings obtained from aggressively managing this year’s budget and greater than expected reimbursements in certain budget categories is permitting the district to increase the level of reserves being used this year to reduce the tax levy.
``The use of substantial reserves to support the budget is a concern long-term and the district will be focusing on managing everything within its control to ensure a healthy future for the district,’’ said Brennan. ``Unfortunately, a great deal remains uncertain and outside our control.’’
Brennan said board members expected this year’s process to be painful but manageable. However, he said it has been more painful than imagined given aid cuts that fell into the district’s ``worst case’’ scenario.
``We are under no illusion that next year will be easier,’’ said Brennan. ``But while there may be disagreement with individual decisions, which is healthy and to be expected, everyone in Milford wants the best for the kids of our community and are focused on addressing the significant challenges we will be facing over the next several years.’’
Kevin Stevens, a representative of the MTA, said the organization’s goal is to have the best school possible by providing high quality education, but at the same time maintaining the leanest budget possible.
State aid reduction numbers are much greater than what we have heard recently, said Stevens. This is why the MTA finds it important to get involved in helping find solutions to providing staffing and programming in a costly manner, he added.
The MTA is made up of 20 teachers who have volunteered their time.
The Milford Board of Education will adopt its 2010-11 budget during its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. on March 25.
A budget hearing has been scheduled for May 10 and community members will have the opportunity to vote in the performing arts center on May 18.
BY MICHELLE MILLER
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