Filling proposed 2019-20 budget gap topic of Board of Education meeting

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
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Posted 4/4/19

CLINTON — Clinton Central School is looking to close a more than $470,000 budget gap as it drafts a proposed spending plan for the 2019-20 school year. Dr. Stephen L. Grimm, superintendent, said in …

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Filling proposed 2019-20 budget gap topic of Board of Education meeting

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CLINTON — Clinton Central School is looking to close a more than $470,000 budget gap as it drafts a proposed spending plan for the 2019-20 school year.

Dr. Stephen L. Grimm, superintendent, said in addition, district committees are looking at scenarios that include budget reductions and additions based on state aid and other revenue sources that are to be discussed.

“With an initial budget gap between projected expenses and revenues of nearly $900,000 presented in January, we have reduced that margin to approximately $471,000, which is still a significant amount,” Grimm said. “The only way to close this gap is to either reduce expenditures or increase revenues, or both. We are hoping that the state legislature will finalize our state aid projections by April 1, which will allow us to decide which funding scenario best meets our needs.”

The final draft of the proposed 2019-20 spending plan does not need to be adopted by the Board of Education until April 23. District residents will vote on the proposed budget Tuesday, May 21, with a public hearing scheduled for the Tuesday prior, May 14.

As the district analyzes the level of need for programs and services, Grimm said district officials will evaluate their systemic educational value and whether they meet the overall district mission, district and building strategic plan, direct effect on children, number of children affected and whether it’s a health and safety issue.

Administrators and educators have been informed that “If you want” a program “funded, then it should be in your strategic plan,” Grimm said.

Areas of study are to include communications service, elementary school teacher/class size, additional instructional coaching/support and elementary physical education.

The superintendent said in the 2019-20 school year, the district anticipates five sections of kindergarten, but if that’s the case, an additional teacher will be needed.

As for studying areas of possible reduction, the district will look at its stipends, transportation (plan), scheduling efficiencies within multiple disciplines (declining enrollment at the middle and high schools); BOCES services; and support staff, which would amount to a total reduction of $238,000, Grimm said.

Reductions that have already been calculated since January are: teaching assistant attrition; operations/maintenance equipment and contractual; teacher retirement contribution; and other miscellaneous stipends.

The remaining budget gap after the $238,000 total reductions still amounts to $233,000. Total additions amount to $95,000. For example, expenses incurred this school year included changing the athletic director position from part-time to full-time, adding an arts elective course at the high school, two full-time teachers’ aides and special education tuition.

Grimm said after the state budget is approved, the school district will know how much it’s slated to receive in state foundation aid. The district will “more than likely get” about a $100,000 increase in aid, which will still leave a $228,000 budget gap.

“Our gap closing scenarios will be dependent on our foundation aid increase,” Grimm said.

As for possible gap closing scenarios, the district will look at its revenues, which will include an undesignated fund balance analysis; appropriated fund balance analysis; long range five-year financial plan analysis; reserve plan analysis and Finance Committee analysis. The undesignated fund balance, district officials explained, is “left-over” monies not used that are “saved for a rainy day.”

District officials will also look at retention of previous strategic priorities to include safety, mental health, curriculum and instruction and class sizes, as well as additions related to strategic goals and areas of need.

The district “wants to understand the implications” of certain “reductions,” Grimm said, before a final proposal is completed.

A special meeting on the proposed budget is slated for April 9, with a regular Board of Education meeting to follow on April 23.

Bright Spots:

• Students Eva Borton and Kimberly Rivera were named National Merit Scholars.

• Clinton Central School was named one of the 2019 Best Communities for Music Education by NAMM Foundation. The district was among 623 named across the nation.

Elementary School: Pupils painted the windows of the school to celebrate the arrival of spring. Principal Ellen Leuthauser said the Positivity Project continues at her school by highlighting character traits with “love” being the trait highlighted in February. Children demonstrated “love” by visiting residents of Brookdale Memory Care, making crafts with the residents. Also as part of the project, faculty and staff created rocks for a rock garden with words of encouragement that will soon be seen throughout the community.

Owners Joseph and Linda McHarris, as well as artists from the Artisan’s Corner, hosted an art show featuring works by elementary pupils. More than 150 people helped celebrate Youth Art Month. Children’s art will continue to be featured at the shop for the next month.

Cornell Cooperative Extension visited first graders to highlight the Farm to Table program. Some children acted as farmers and “sold” their items to others who were “paying customers.” Youths learned to budget their money and make choices about what they could afford. The cafeteria staff also made carrot muffins as part of Agriculture Week. The state police K-9 Unit also visited third graders.

Middle School: The Battle of the Books team has been meeting since October to read, analyze and quiz each other on 20 different books, Dr. Shaun Carney, principal, said. The middle and high school teams competed against several local teams and both earned third place in a competition held at Hamilton College on March 19.

The middle school will host TEDx Clinton Middle School at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 5 in the performing arts theater. There is a limit of about 100 people to attend. TEDx programs include talks and special guest speakers. Clinton’s theme will be Innovate Within. The event is being organized by teacher Sarah Gaetano. Guest speakers are to include teacher Christopher Albrecht, Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties President and CEO Alicia Dicks, entrepreneur and musician Michael Eagle, teacher Debby Hepburn, writer, leadership coach and speaker Jordan Gross and students Ariana Febus, Eva Gaetano, Darcy Head and Olivia Peto.

High School: Kayla Morrell was part of a three-person team in the contest Crime Scene Investigation, as part of Skills USA, that placed first and will now compete in a state competition to be held at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse in April. Contestants were directed to a mock crime scene and briefed on the situation. Students then collected and removed evidence of the crime. After the scene was processed, contestants wrote a report, drew the crime scene and marked their evidence.

Thirty-nine students were inducted into the National Honor Society. The 2019 Clinton Science Olympiad team was the first in school history to advance to the state Science Olympiad Competition. A total of 56 teams attended, all representing the best schools in their region. Clinton finished 28th overall. Joseph Pascucci and Lauren Chmielewski won medals for sixth place in the Water Quality category, and Yihan Xie and Lauren Chmielewski took medals for fourth place in Chemistry Lab.

Math Presenters teams visited Rochester and Albany to make presentations about Break-Out Boxes and A New Way of Assessing Students to teachers. Participating students were Eddie Llamos, Tanner Deveans, Sydney Bialek, Alexis Hobika, Taylor Arndt, Sarah Martini, Jenna Cofano, Josh Trask, Alex Mancuso, Morrison Powell and Noah Freund. Dr. Matthew Lee, principal, said students helped show educators how to appropriately use break-out boxes for certain lessons and how they help make learning fun. They also shared how proper feedback and communication between teachers and students helps with the assessment process. Teams have also been invited to speak for Rome City School District and other schools in Rochester, Lee said.

High school faculty and staff also won the district-wide Fitness Challenge for most logged hours of exercise and for being physically active.

• Director of Pupil Personnel Services Kathy Fonda gave a brief presentation on the Special Education District Plan. She started by dispelling some myths, emphasizing that resource room teachers are not different from special education teachers; not all special education teachers can teach all levels; classified students don’t have lower IQs; and students who are classified may still receive a high school diploma and go to college.

There are 29 students from CCS who attend various Out of District programs; there are 24 students who attend Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES Special Education programs; four students who attend special education programs at Upstate Cerebral Palsy; and one student who attends the state School for the Deaf in Rome.

There are 11 certified Special Education teachers in the district who provide academic, behaviorial and social/emotional support for classified students; case management for students; collect data needed for monitoring students; and supervise teaching assistants and aides assigned to students.

The district’s pre-school special education program is funded by the county, Fonda said. Preschoolers with a disability have access to a continuum of services through contracting agencies and providers; the Oneida BOCES Preschool Coordinator coordinates all the steps such as initial evaluation, reevaluations, etc. There are 17 identified preschoolers this school year, as were last year. Seven identified preschoolers will be eligible for kindergarten next school year.

Challenges include creating programs and services within the district; ensuring that classified students are having their academic needs met; finding appropriate out-of-district placements for high-needs students; and providing access to general education courses while still meeting students’ Individual Education Programs.

Bright Spots: In the 2017-18 school year, eight classified students graduated, with three students receiving a Regents diploma and four getting local diplomas.

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