MAYVILLE - "The plan is to choke us out," is the assessment of Jay Baker, Chautauqua Lake Central School board vice president regarding Albany educational officials' actions toward small rural school districts.
Baker made the comment at a recent board meeting during a broad discussion among board members about problems facing Chautauqua Lake and many other Chautauqua County and upstate school districts.
Many of the comments expressed both the disappointment and frustration of those who attended a "legislative open house" on Saturday, Jan. 19, a question and answer session with state Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-Chautauqua, and state Sen. Catharine Young, R-C-I-Olean.
"I don't think there were any big revelations," said Jill Scott, board president.
Most of the questions and answers, Scott said, involved the ongoing problems posed by expenses caused by state requirements without any state help in paying for them.
Both Scott and Baker criticized Sen. Young for promising certain issues would be addressed in the latest New York budget if members, "would be patient." These issues are not even mentioned in the budget proposal, according to Scott and Baker.
Ben Spitzer, district superintendent, said the "punch line" from the session for the district is, "We're losing."
Also at the meeting, the board was informed by district Business Manager Dave Thomas that about $177,000 has been shaved from the 2013-14 budget proposal. However, that still leaves $842,000 that has to be eliminated to bring expenses roughly in line with revenue projections.
"That's where we are. That's our challenge," Thomas said.
Thomas presented the board with a document comparing the actual budgets from the last two years with the latest numbers for the 2013-14 budget. Two of the biggest spending increases are for teachers' retirement and district employees' health insurance, which total about $360,000 more than in the current budget.
A hearing on a final budget proposal will be held at the school on Tuesday, May 7, at 7 p.m., with the vote set a week later between 7 and 9 p.m., also at the school. Both dates were unanimously approved by the board.