By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special To ALLOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – K-12 staffing, extracurricular activities and classroom sizes will all be discussed during the second of three public meetings on the Cooperstown Central School budget, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22 at the school.
“We are in the very early stages of budget formation,” said Superintendent Bill Crankshaw. “Last month we discussed the administration portion of the budget. This month we will talk about the program portion of the budget and then the capital portion.”
Although the budget won’t officially be unveiled until March, the Board of Education will take this opportunity to explore their options.
“We’re doing the preliminary work right now. The discussion is rooted in what we value and what we want to see in terms of programming. We have ongoing programs which are rooted in social and emotional learning, as well as early learning. Those are two areas that are priorities for us this year.”
In particular, the board will look at factors such as classroom size when considering what changes to make for early learning. “We know that a critical time for learning to read is in the first grade. This budget will discuss classroom size and the number of classrooms for those early grades. The assumption is that when you have smaller classes, there’s more attention given to individual instruction and small group instruction,” said Crankshaw.
And for social and emotional learning, the focus might be “keeping the counseling staff at levels that we know will support students in the best ways,” he said.” “If you make a program a priority, it’s always a challenge to fund what you value, but it becomes more important if you can articulate what you value. Social and emotional learning is one of the values we will put out there. In this budget planning, we’re mindful of what our students need in the context of what our taxpayers can and will afford.”
With annual state aid stagnant, however, New York State public schools are struggling to meet their budget needs.
“Our state aid is flat, meaning that it doesn’t increase at all year to year,” said Crankshaw. “That is always a real challenge when our revenues lag behind our expenses. That will become more and more common as we head into the future.”
And regardless of how well they plan, it’s hard to know what the future will bring.
“We’ve done a five year forecast and looked at our staffing needs and our revenue. We have concerns moving into the future about how we are going to afford the programs that are of value to the district,” he said.
As they navigate the budget, Crankshaw and the Board of Education continue to remain proactive.
“For the last couple of years, we have been trying to right size our budget and spend more wisely in areas where we can improve the curriculum, the programs, and the staffing. The budget that we’re planning for next year will have an impact 3-4 years down the road and we will have to keep that in mind,” he said.