The district also has been using its fund balance, appropriating $12.4 million over the last three years. With only about $875,000 left in reserves, the district doesn’t have a fallback.
Further staffing, kindergarten, sports and other non-mandated program cuts will be the last resort.
“Hopefully, we will not become insolvent,” said district Business Official Maureen Albanese. “If things did continue as bad as they were the last couple of years, we would definitely be headed for it.”
It’s much more expensive to recreate a program than to maintain it, Easton said.
But with an approximately $5.5 million budget for the 2013-14 school year, and only about 195 students, the Owen D. Young Central School District has to explore all options every year.
Merging with other districts would be difficult due to the district’s geographic remoteness, said Superintendent James Picolla.
This year it’s cutting French. As for advanced placement courses, they can’t afford to offer them.
But the district got creative when it comes to staffing. The business official, Committee on Special Education chairperson and even the superintendent are shared through the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES.
Picolla works part-time as the BOCES Human Resources director, and earns an additional $55,000 a year as superintendent. The district’s savings went to reinstating the school principal position to full time to accommodate mandates such as the annual teacher reviews, he said.
Districts can avoid insolvency by sharing services or merging, but in the long run, experts say the only way is through state aid reform and mandate relief.
Olympia Sonnier, spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said it’s clear that the state is showing unprecedented commitment to schools, providing more than $341 million in education funding to Oneida County next year — about $13 million more than this year.
“For decades, the Albany solution to education was to spend more and more money even though graduation rates remained abysmal,” Sonnier aid. “While overall aid has increased over the last two years, Gov. Cuomo also enacted reform that injects accountability and reduces costs and bureaucracy, and puts more funds into the classroom.”
As for Owen D. Young, if financial difficulties continue next year, the district will look at cutting core programming, Picolla said.
“If we have to make cuts, then we’d be offering a student not much more than the minimum requirements toward graduation.”