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Superintendent predicts staff cuts due to $3 million spending increase

Updated: 02/13/08 6:41 AM

Staff reductions are looking unavoidable as the 2008-09 budget for Grand Island Central Schools begins to form into a first draft.

That’s because of an estimated $3 million increase in district spending on “major impact items,” or obligatory contributions to health insurance costs, salary raises, workers’ compensation and other costs. Based on early projections, those costs have increased more than 6 percent, and none are likely to decrease before the budget is finalized.

“I would be surprised, looking at the budget, if we didn’t have some kinds of reductions in staffing,” Superintendent Robert Christmann said at a School Board meeting Monday night. “We don’t necessarily know exactly where it will be, but . . . that’s what it’s looking like at this point.”

Last year’s $47.4 million budget was a 3.9 percent increase from the year before, with a tax rate of $38.08 per $1,000 of assessed value. The rate for next year looks to be $39.33 per $1,000 of assessed value, according to Assistant Superintendent for Finance Loraine A. Ingrasci.

While the district anticipates a $1 million increase in overall state aid this year, Christmann noted that the state increased aid $1.8 million in the last approved budget. That leaves the district with “a $2 million gap to fill,” Christmann said, if it aims to keep levies and taxation even.

Fuel costs for the district’s fleet now rank among the greatest increases in this year’s budget, jumping 14.6 percent to a total of more than $375,000. The largest percentages are in workers’ compensation insurance, up 17.3 percent to $528,000, and health insurance costs, rising 13.2 percent to $5. 6 million.

In another matter, the School Board unanimously approved sending a signed resolution to Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer in opposition to his proposal to reassign state troopers stationed at rural and suburban schools across the state to high-crime areas.

Grand Island is one of about 120 districts that would lose a school resource officer under Spitzer’s proposed budget, starting in June. Christmann said he would work to ensure legislators and other state and local representatives were made aware of the reassignment’s impact on the schools.