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Long Lake school faces uncertainty

Sunday, April 21, 2013 - Updated: 10:05 AM

updated April 29 at 10:06 a.m. to add list of school superintendents since 1996.

By PETE KLEIN

Express News Staff

LONG LAKE – Despite meeting for over five hours Tuesday, April 16, the Long Lake Central School Board of Education failed to approve a budget that would come in under the tax levy cap, presented by Superintendent Mary Jo Dickerson and Business Manager Victoria Snide.

The BOE did not approve the proposed budget because it wants to consider increasing Pre-K schooling from the current three days per week in the draft budget to five days.

If the board does expand Pre-K schooling the budget could still come in under the cap, as long as the increased cost does not exceed $48,000.

Under Dickerson’s proposal the tax levy increase is estimated at $80,832 or 3.21 percent. The maximum allowed without an override vote is 3.311 percent.

Dickerson told the BOE, “State aid revenues have increased approximately $140,000 which is a big difference from the originally proposed budget with a $202,000 decrease in state aid. I recommend that we use the state aid increase to our advantage by lowering the tax levy to benefit the taxpayers.”

Dickerson’s budget of $3,966,759 is up $66,608 (1.7 percent) from the current budget of $3,900,151. The 2011/12 budget was $3,970,596. Under her budget $285,000 in fund balance (the same as in the 2012/13 budget) would be applied to reduce taxes.

Subtracting projected revenues of $1,082,713 leaves $2,599,046 to be raised through the tax levy. This results in an estimated tax rate of $3.8732 per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase of $0.1205 over the current $3.7527.

This would be an additional $12.05 in taxes. A home assessed at $100,000 would go from $375.32 in school tax to $387.32.

BOARD VS SUPERINTENDENT

The relationship between the BOE and its school superintendents has sometimes been rocky. LLCS has seen nine superintendents come and go since 1996: Pat Vartuli, Ed Jacunsci, Jim Beardsley, John Simons, Ken Slentz, Larry Patswald, Kevin Crampton, Tisha White and Mary Dickerson. White, the guidance counselor, served as acting superintendent after Crampton left.

The most difficult and most recent termination was when the board cancelled Kevin Crampton’s contract in 2009. Dickerson replaced him. The turmoil leading up to Crampton’s departure caused the BOE to have a study done in 2010 that provided an outside perspective on administrative and governance operations, financial management and communication. Comments from various constituents, including BOE members, reflected perceptions of micro-management, personal agendas and lack of unity in BOE operations.

The study recommended improvements focused on two areas:

1 - administrative and governance operations, specifically functioning of the BOE; and

2 - internal and external communications with stakeholders, such as staff, parents, community and taxpayers.

Given that Dickerson was new to the position and the BOE was comprised of a majority of relatively inexperienced members (three began mid-term in 2006, 2007 and 2008), it was agreed BOE development activities would be implemented soon.

Dickerson says she welcomed the opportunity to have these discussions with the BOE to clarify expectations of her and the working relationship of the governance team.

Now, just three years since the study was completed, the BOE is once again comprised mostly of new and inexperienced members: Hallie Bond, elected in 1998; Michael Nerney, 2010; Christine Blumberg, 2010; Kristen Brosnan, 2011; and Christine Campeau, 2012.

ACTIONS

The BOE voted on three motions. The first passed allows BOE members to visit the school during school hours so they can talk to staff. Bond, Nerney and Bronson voted ‘aye’ while Blumberg and Campeau voted ‘nay.’

The second, also passed, makes the BOE responsible for conducting Annual Professional Performance Reviews of teachers and principals. The vote was along the same lines.

The state Education Department requires APPRs to be conducted by a person who has been trained to do so, usually a superintendent or principal. Only Dickerson currently has the training and SED approval to conduct APPRs.

The third motion was defeated 5-0. It would have extended Dickerson’s current contract by one year, to June 30, 2016.

Commenting on the meeting the following day, Dickerson said, “With additional responsibilities with the new APPR process and serving as principal and superintendent, it is without a doubt a difficult position to keep filled as is evident with nine administrative turnovers since 1996.”

Dickerson says she is concerned about consistency in education for the children, the future of the school and the fear and anxiety of her staff and community.

OTHER BUSINESS

-- The board tabled a vote on tenure for Joseph Koehring, Noelle Short and Kristin Delehanty as well as the BOE evaluation.

-- It approved the 2013/14 sports merger with Indian Lake Central School for all sports.

-- Genevieve Boyd will be a volunteer assistant coach for modified baseball.

-- For-profit groups will be charged building use fees.

-- Just one petition has been filed to run for a seat on the BOE. Paul Roalsvig will run against Hallie Bond.

The board will next meet Tuesday, May 14, starting at 6 p.m. with the public hearing on the budget starting at 7 p.m. The budget vote and election will be May 21.

peterklein@hamiltoncountyexpress.com

     

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