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Schools Will Need To Face Difficult, But Necessary Decisions

Cassadaga Valley Central School is considering a potentially difficult, but likely necessary, decision.

More than a dozen positions could be cut in the school’s 2020-21 budget proposal, but none generated more discussion than the possible elimination of Scot Stutzman, high school principal. No layoffs have been confirmed by the school yet, but several members of the public were on the Zoom call to express their dissatisfaction with Stutzman’s potential layoff.

Faced with less state and local revenue, Cassadaga Valley is proposing spending $103,354 less in 2020-21 than it did in 2019-20, but to do so the district may have to cut as much as $823,285 in salaries and benefits from its budget. Any such cuts are doing to be painful, and we have a feeling Cassadaga Valley isn’t going to be alone in making painful choices during this prolonged school budget season.

Many districts will find themselves in a similar position because they don’t have large enough fund balances to use to offset the coming decreases in state aid that have been promised by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Jamestown, for example, has to hire several building principals and a superintendent while not knowing exactly how much revenue it will have coming from the state. Dr. Bret Apthorpe, Jamestown superintendent, has said the aid cuts from the state could force cuts he can only describe as draconian. Clymer officials have mentioned the possibility of short-term borrowing depending on how much and when its state aid is received.

Cassadaga Valley’s possible path is one that other districts may have to examine. Merging positions may be a necessary evil right now if there are multiple people in a building that have the required certifications to fill certain required positions. Merging positions or potentially laying off a principal who has done good work may be necessary so that teaching staff and positions that work directly with children are spared.

Earlier this week, we reported that New York once again led the nation in 2017-18 in school spending per pupil, coming in at more than $24,000 spent per child. Of that $24,000 per pupil, New York is second in the nation on spending for salaries ($9,747 per pupil) and first in employee benefits ($5,418). Those two areas are largely where cuts have to be found when the state and federal money train stops rolling.

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