- districts plan layoffs, salary freezes, program cuts or increases in tax levies — or some combination
- districts are working very hard to hold down the tax increases
- About 300 of New York's school districts have reported so far that they plan to eliminate a total of nearly 16,000 jobs
- In some school systems, unions have agreed to freeze salaries and make concessions "to help preserve programs and reduce the number of pink slips,"
- the average spending hike for the 2011-12 budgets will be at or below this year's 1.4 percent
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been urging schools to use their reserve accounts
- the people of this state are saying, 'I need a cap on my property tax because you're taxing me out of my home.'"
- school districts are saying they understand the fiscal realities
You can read the entire article after the jump.
N.Y. school budgets plan 1,600 layoffs and counting11:54 PM, Apr. 9, 2011, Written by Cara MatthewsALBANY — With just over five weeks to go until school-budget votes, New Yorkers are learning whether their districts plan layoffs, salary freezes, program cuts or increases in tax levies — or some combination.With a $1.2 billion cut in state education aid, officials in New York's roughly 700 school districts have been scrambling to figure out how to get by without too much damage to classrooms or taxpayers' wallets."The sense that I have is that districts are working very hard to hold down the tax increases, despite dealing with the reduction in state aid, and so that's going to mean more positions eliminated, more programs reduced," said Robert Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.Some districts are imposing furloughs while others are freezing salaries and step increases or giving raises that are less than what was agreed upon, said Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers.About 300 of New York's school districts have reported so far that they plan to eliminate a total of nearly 16,000 jobs, he said.Big-city districts are proposing massive layoffs: possibly 900 people in Rochester and 700 in Yonkers. New York City, Buffalo and Syracuse, the other members of the Big 5 school districts, also are bracing for major reductions in staff. The public does not vote on budgets for the Big 5.But not all districts are going the layoff route. In some school systems, unions have agreed to freeze salaries and make concessions "to help preserve programs and reduce the number of pink slips," Korn said.West Seneca in Erie County will close an $8 million deficit without layoffs."In those places where school boards have reached across the table in a spirit of collaboration and partnership and sought to work with their unions toward creative solutions, we found both sides willing to roll up their sleeves and find ways to restructure their agreements," Korn said."In places where school-board members and superintendents have beaten their chests and pointed fingers, naturally there's been push back," he said.Korn said he has learned of two cases in which teachers unions have offered concessions that were rejected by school administrators on the grounds that the give-backs weren't enough.In the Ramapo Central district, teachers agreed to a total salary freeze next year, meaning no step raises or increases for education credits, Superintendent Robert MacNaughton said. If approved by voters, the budget will raise the property-tax levy by about 2.5 percent, he said.The salary freeze will continue in year two of the four-year contract, but step raises and increases for education credits will be allowed, MacNaughton said. Teachers agreed to increase their health-insurance contribution by 2.5 percent in both the second and third years.They will receive raises in the third and fourth years.In exchange, the district has promised no teacher layoffs for two years, MacNaughton said."I believe that teachers here don't want to see colleagues laid off," he said. "I think they're proud of the educational program that we have here and some of the extras that we offer to students."Lowry said he thinks the average spending hike for the 2011-12 budgets will be at or below this year's 1.4 percent. In the 2010-11 school year, 30 percent of the state's districts cut spending, but 75 percent of those still asked for a tax increase, Lowry said.Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been urging schools to use their reserve accounts, saying most have enough money to cover the state cuts.The 2011-12 state budget says there will be an $800 million increase in state aid — about 4 percent — in the 2012-13 school year.But the optimism for 2012-13 is tempered by the possibility that New York could have a property-tax cap in effect. School groups, unions and municipalities have balked at a cap, which would limit property-tax growth to 2 percent a year."School districts and local governments say, 'Well, we don't want to cap the growth,'" Cuomo said during a radio interview in Albany Friday. "I understand you don't want to cap the growth, butNew York is at a point at which people are saying they can't afford to pay any more taxes and businesses are saying they will leave the state, Cuomo said. "It has to end somewhere," he said.This year, more than ever, school districts are saying they understand the fiscal realities, said Brian Butry, a spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association. They are talking about layoffs, closing schools and cutting programs, he said."I don't think that this is propaganda, and I don't think that these are threats," he said. "These are real."