Taking a Scalpel to Proposed Budget in Sag Harbor School District

Posted on 07 November 2008

Although the phone lines in the Sag Harbor School District have been working lately, the district has experienced major problems with them resulting in an irritating busy signal greeting callers over the past few weeks.
Callers trying to reach administrators at the school would hear busy signals, but school employees were able to call out. To rectify the situation, the district has announced it will be changing phone companies — from Metel to Optimum Lightpath — which will save the district approximately $30,000. Some administrators are suggesting some other creative ways to tighten the school’s spending belt, in an effort to save money in the district and decrease the chances of the current economic struggle hitting and impacting the education of the students. Total cost savings in the district so far this year are just over $300,000.
At a board of education meeting last month, superintendent Dr. John Gratto announced that there would be a spending freeze in office supplies, professional development and conferences for some departments, not to exceed $100,000. The purpose of the freeze, Gratto said, is to protect educational programs in the event of a mid-year state aid reduction and to possibly minimize a tax increase in next year’s budget. Gratto also said that programs and services directly impacting students would remain fully funded.
The district’s business manager, Len Bernard, also said on Monday that the district was able to cut costs on certain supplies that he, Gratto and some administrators felt were unnecessary, saving $100,000 out of the 2008-2009 school’s budget. He said the district would not have to delete any item in its entirety, but instead can reduce the amount of certain supplies and shave $1,000 to $3,000 off particular items.
Gratto also said that the district was able to reduce a data analyst position from two days a week to one day per week. Bernard said that the analyst was needed two days a week last year, but this year it would only be data entry and not require as much time as it had in the past.
“We went through the budget, not with a sledge hammer, but with a scalpel; we went through all the items with the administrators to make sure they felt comfortable,” Bernard said on Monday.
But there have been additional efforts to cut costs and save money for the district.
Gratto said in his message last month to parents, teachers, administrators and community members that the district has saved money by choosing not to re-hire an accounts payable/accounts receivable position that was left open at the beginning of the summer. By doing this, Gratto said they have saved $40,000. Also in his letter, which is posted on the school’s website, Gratto said that a position has been eliminated from the school’s lunch program, which also saved the district $49,000 and the building and grounds position that was given to the new athletic director was also a cost savings of $40,000 for the district.
Additionally, after a review in September, Gratto said the district was able to cut $51,000 by reducing services offered by BOCES, which was included in the 2008-2009 budget.
Bernard said that he went through the BOCES budget line by line to see in what areas the district could cut services offered through the program — and where instead of hiring costly consultants the district could choose to use in-house staff.
The school district is also working on the South Shore Purchasing Consortium, which was an idea pushed by the Sag Harbor District and Gratto, to combine the purchasing of nine area schools to attempt to get better pricing for things like paper and heating oil.

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