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North Collins school board eliminates one teacher aide spot

NORTH COLLINS — At its July 22 meeting, following an executive session, the North Collins School Board opted to eliminate one teacher’s aide position at the elementary school.

The move was prompted by staffing excesses found at the high school and seniority rights found the least tenured aide on the elementary staff.

The board examined various scenarios which could have seen two aides cut, or even two part-time teaching positions cut.

Junior Senior High School Principal Annie Metcalf urged the board to leave the teaching positions alone, citing them as key to the school’s academic intervention service, which offers help to struggling students.

Board Member David Gier said he thought periodic review of staffing, in light of student needs, was prudent.

“We have 38 students choosing vocational-technical courses this year. A few years ago, we had only 10, but most students were seeking Advanced Placement classes, at that time.”

The board also seemed favorably disposed toward entering a shared services agreement with the Lake Shore School District to operate the transportation system.

Superintendent Joan Thomas reported that monetary savings are projected as minimal, but also presented a list of numerous gains North Collins would receive with such an agreement. Among those were the acquisition of an experienced transportation director, access to newer software and clerical support from the Lake Shore staff. Lake Shore also provides more comprehensive training schedule for bus drivers.

While the Lake Shore Transportation Supervisor would oversee all operations, a senior bus driver would be designated, specifically for North Collins. The board expected to vote on the matter at its next meeting. The Lake Shore board would also have to agree to the contract.

In other shared services, District Treasurer Crystal Cocca said the agreement to manage the food service in the district by the Springville-Griffith Institute School District staff “Is pretty much a done deal.” That arrangement is being facilitated by SODEXHO, which operates the food service in both districts. It will see team leaders assigned to manage the cafeterias at the elementary and junior-senior high buildings.

Cocca also reported that, after years of running food service deficits in the range of $20,000, that number has been brought down to $10,000. She said that additional measures are being taking to reduce it further.

In order too receive state school tax rebates for taxpayers in 2015, Cocca noted, the district will need to demonstrate $50,000 in savings through shared service agreements.

A contingent of veterans were on hand to hear Assessor Jeannie Ebersole present options concerning state legislation that allows for an alternate veterans exemption on school taxes.

Ebersole explained that there is no mandate to offer the full extent of exemptions by a school district and those exemptions do have caps. At mamostximum, a non-combat veteran could receive a property tax exemption of $18,000. Combat veterans would see the threshold rise to $30,000 and disabled veterans could be eligible for up to $60,000 in reduced property valuation.

If veterans receive exemptions, it will fall on non-veteran property owners to make up any reduction in the tax levy. In reviewing the potential impact, Ebersole said, “I anticipated it being higher, but I was impressed that it didn’t change rates that much.”

In North Collins and Evans, the rate would rise 0.35 percent or 35 cents more per thousand dollars of valuation. The rate in Brant would rise .37; Eden, .54; Collins, .56 and Concord, .75, if the district were to approve the maximum exemption.

Ebersole added that it was too late to implement any changes for this year’s tax collection, but the board could decide to act for next year. She added that a public hearing would be required, prior to the board approving the measure.

Don Koch, Commander of the North Collins American Legion, encouraged the board to act.

“We don’t want to hurt the kids, but I researched it and saw that it is only a shift of 1 percent of the budget. While you are considering this, remember that every veteran gave the country a blank check, which included their life.”

Ebersole also informed the board that a decrease in the taxable value in the school district could cause a drop in STAR reimbursement money.

Cocca added the reduction of the value of gas wells and other utilities by the state. She reported the move has removed some $2.5 million in assessed value and would translate into a 16 cent per thousand increase in the tax levy, if nothing changes next year.

The board officially accepted a donation of $8,000 from the district’s sports boosters toward the installation of batting cages at the athletic field. Booster chair and board member Tammy Winter reported that more money needs to be raised.

“We would like to get construction going before the snow flies,” she said.

Winter outlined booster plans, including a barbecue during the Western New York Baseball Showcase on Aug. 16 and a golf tournament, for Sept. 20.

In other board matters:

– The board appointed John Bruno to the district safety committee.

– The board approved increasing one position in the family and consumer science area from .5 to .7. The extra time will be allotted to Kathleen McCabe, the most senior part-time teacher.

The school board will hold a work session meeting on Aug. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the North Collins high school library.

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