New fears for the future of the Maybrook School
At the first in a series of Citizens’ Advisory Budget Committee (CABC) meetings to be held over the course of the next few weeks, Valley Central School District Superintendent Dr. Richard Hooley announced that the school district is facing a shortfall of $8,687,000.
Hooley explained how that number was determined by subtracting the district’s estimated revenue for 2013-2014 from its anticipated expenditures but stressed that it is too early to know what the exact figures will be.
“It’s a tough nut to swallow; even if we’re wrong and it’s a $6 million shortfall, not $8 million,” the superintendent said.
Also during the meeting, which was held on Feb. 4, Hooley reminded audience members of the challenges the district is facing when building next year’s budget. They include the two percent tax cap, flat state aid and increased costs.
To further illustrate those challenges, Hooley said that if the district were to adopt a “rollover budget,” which he explained was the cost to have the same school year next year, it would mean a 4.99 percent increase.
“This year, in an effort to try to squeeze every penny out of the budget, we not only did our regular process that begins in November, which is to sit down with every department chair and every principal to talk about what we could do to manage these costs, but we actually went through their budgets with them line-by-line to look at what costs were and why they were there,” Hooley said.
During the public participation portion of the meeting, several residents and local officials commented about an issue that was on everyone’s mind: the possible closing of Maybrook Elementary School.
“Eight and a half million dollars is a phenomenal amount of money,” Village of Maybrook Trustee James Barnett said about the shortfall. “I sat through the meetings last year when it was $4 million. You are now doubling that hole.”
Barnett went on to say that no one should be naïve enough to think that something drastic isn’t going to have to happen in order to come up with that money.
“You’re not going to find $8.5 million unless you do something really serious,” he said. “We all know what that involves. We know because for three years we’ve been fighting it.”
Barnett asked that if it did come down to having to close Maybrook, that school officials let the community know as soon as possible.
“We certainly hope to give everyone as much notice as possible,” said Hooley, before sharing the unfortunate fact that closing the school would only make up a small portion of the deficit.
Village of Maybrook Mayor Dennis Leahy also spoke at the meeting, saying that he understood the difficult position that the district is in.
“We’re all trying to stay afloat,” he said. “We’re all trying to keep our heads above water.”
Still, the mayor worried that property values in the village would drop if the community school was closed and asked that school board members keep an open mind when it comes to making decisions that will impact so many.
“We’ve come a long way in the last four or five years,” he said. “The board and myself have worked very hard to get to this point. It will set us back.”
The next CABC meeting will take place at Valley Central Middle School on Tuesday, Feb. 19. It is scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m.
By JESSICA MURRAY