Westmoreland school budget avoids widespread cuts
Over the last few months we've told you about dozens of school districts facing major cuts and layoffs. However, there are some districts that have avoided the problem this year.
Our Andrew Sorensen tells us how Westmoreland has overcome its financial troubles.
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WESTMORELAND, N.Y.-- The Westmoreland Central School District budget hearing was mostly empty this year, and that's partly because they are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"It's getting a little brighter, but it's still a ways away, unfortunately," WCSD School Business official Mark Kennedy said at the hearing Tuesday night.
Aid funding accounts for more than 50-percent of the district's budget, and over the last four years, they have lost $1.7 million in state aid and nearly half a million in federal aid.
People packed this same auditorium to protest the 33 staff cuts the district was forced to make.
One of the reasons the school district is in a better position this year is because of their actions during last year's budget.
"Probably the biggest difference was how everyone banded together last year and made tough choices individually to benefit the entire district," Kennedy said.
District officials say union concessions saved 23 more positions and several programs going into this year.
"They all agreed to wage freezes last year to help us get through the budget process, and they agreed to changes in the health benefits program." WCSD School Board President Mitch Lemaire said.
It wasn't easy to break even, but they managed to save nearly one-million dollars over the year.
"We didn't spend everything that we budgeted, the board a little over a month ago put a complete spending freeze, knowing that we were going to need that fund balance to help offset the fund balance this coming yea,." Kennedy said.
While they aren't out of the woods yet, it is an optimistic picture of where other districts facing similar issues could be during this time next year.
Westmoreland's budget vote on May 15 calls for a 2.8% tax increase, just shy of their limit.