Two weeks after promising to create a 2012-13 budget that would stay beneath the tax cap while maintaining class sizes and major programming, Harrison school officials say they have found three-quarters of the $800,000 in cuts necessary to do so.
Cuts include the elimination of between four and five non-instructional positions that are expected to save approximately $359,000 and the elimination of an administrative position that will save another $142,000.
Each position has been vacated by retirements or resignations and the district doesn't expect to include any layoffs in the budget at this point, said Harrison Assistant Superintendent for Business Robert Salierno.
The district will save another $110,000 after finding out that a student needing out-of-district placement will not be returning next year.
In Salierno's at the budget on March 7, he said the district needed to find $800,000 in savings to stay beneath the state's tax levy cap. The new savings announced Wednesday leave the district less than a month to find an additional $200,000 in cuts.
Those remaining cuts will likely be spread across several areas and Salierno said he doesn't anticipate any major cuts to individual programs or departments moving forward.
"I think it's going to be small, granular things," he said. "We don't want to cause too much of an impact in one particular area."
The Harrison Board of Education has asked administrators to stay beneath the tax cap in 2012-13, its first year. The 2 percent cap on the tax levy can be surpassed only if 60 percent of voters approve the budget this spring, but there have been no indications so far that the district intends to break the cap.
Harrison Superintendent Louis Wool reiterated his two biggest goals for the budget Wednesday—staying beneath the cap and maintaining class sizes and core programming. He said although the last round of cuts were difficult, there is optimism that administrators can achieve the goals for next year.
"We are going to get where you want us to go," Wool said to the board of education at Wednesday night's meeting. "We are going through this budget with a paring knife so we can try as best as possible to achieve this in an as effective as possible way as we can imagine."
The latest round of cuts will force the district to reorganize in at least two areas. Salierno said the eliminated administrative position will be absorbed with a reorganization of the existing administrators. The district will plan for the non-instructional staffing cuts in a similar manner.
Wool said he has already informed labor unions of the expected staffing cuts.
Although helpful for next year's budget, Wool said he is concerned about the long-term affects of administrative cuts. He pointed out that over time such cuts will eventually stretch the district's staffing too thin, affecting his ability to oversee and evaluate teachers, among other things.
"To tell you the system will not be affected by reducing that position, I can't tell you that," he said. "I can tell you that I'm confident in the short term."
The district's current spending plan now sits at $104.4 million, a 1.2 percent budget-to-budget increase from a year ago. The tax levy, the portion of the budget paid by local taxpayers, is about $200,000 above the $93.1 million cap.
Although the board had originally planned to present a finalized budget by April 11, that date has been pushed to April 18 to give administrators another week to prepare. The April 11 meeting will now be used to go over the budget one more time before a final proposal is presented on April 18.
A final public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on May 2, two weeks before it will go to a public vote.