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Written By The Mountain Eagle on 2/9/24 | 2/9/24

CRCS Breaks Down Fledgling Budget

By Joshua Walther

COBLESKILL - Last Monday, the CRCS Board of Education made history by publicly sharing information about their current budget process.

The Board received severe backlash just last year over budget concerns and program eliminations, and many people thought that the members weren’t listening to public feedback from the community.

Because of this, Superintendent Matthew Sickles took up the charge of sharing each step of the budget process, something that hasn’t even been attempted in recent memory.

He explained that there will be a total of five public presentations, each at one of the monthly Board meetings. This information is made available between each Citizens’ Budget Committee meeting, so that they can truly digest any feedback they might be given.

The meeting this week covered the first of these presentations, and Superintendent Sickles took the time to thoroughly explain where the team was in the process.

Unfortunately, it seems that expenditures have only risen since last year’s fiasco. Spending has increased in every category, from administration to instruction and salaries.

With everything added together, CRCS is looking to spend $48,304,123, which is a substantial increase from last year’s adopted budget of $45,352,710.

To make things worse, revenue streams are dipping, making for a larger gap in the budget. The projected numbers so far seem to be hovering around $45,878,015, which doesn’t seem hopeful.

There are a few reasons for the lowered revenue. To start, there are salaries and benefits that were previously covered by federal stimulus, but that’s set to expire in September of 2024, rolling in around $767,000 to the new budget. 

In addition, the state governor is proposing to lower Foundation Aid for every district in New York, which will heavily impact CRCS and other rural schools. If this proposal goes through, the district is slated to lose $134,000 or more.

The topic of Foundation Aid was something that Board President Bruce Tryon stuck to, stating that it seems as if state aid is toyed with every year. 

“After looking at the numbers, I don’t know how the other districts in Schoharie County can function,” President Tryon lamented. He then called for the other schools to band together to try and regain some semblance of aid from the state.

However, while they remain hopeful that Foundation Aid will return, CRCS must prepare for the worst. And, with their estimations, Superintendent Sickles pointed out that they have a negative budget gap of $2,426,108.

After revealing the gap, he quickly reiterated that no matter how uncomfortable the situation becomes, they will only look at eliminating school programs as a last resort, and only after they’ve thoroughly spoken to affected staff members.

However, it’s important to point out that these are not the end numbers. These were only the projections from the first of five presentations, and the members of the Board believe that the gap will only shorten over time.

“We see a path forward,” Superintendent Sickles concluded. “It’s not a comfortable path or one that we would hope for, but it is a path.”

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