Albany City Schools facing $6.6 million budget deficit

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Albany City School District is facing a $6.6 million dollar gap.

Superintendent Kaweeda Adams told NEWS10 ABC it’s one of the largest gaps they’ve seen. She said the average is typically somewhere between $1 million and $2 million. According to a spokesperson for the district, the last time the district saw a deficit like this was between 2010 and 2014 when they eliminated 360 positions.

Adams said, while there are a number of things that contributed to the gap, part of it has to do with the expenditures from last year that were used to benefit students in terms of services and reducing class size. She said they’re also facing a reduction in state aid funding.

“There were budget concerns initially because it was a tight year with regards to the funding that school districts were going to receive. COVID-19 has just added to those complexities because now there are unintended costs that we are using that now impact our budgets moving forward,” said Adams.

The Board of Education held a meeting Thursday night to discuss some of the considerations that need to be made.

“We are looking at different contracted services that may need to be discontinued. We are looking at programming options that may need to be discontinued or modified in some way. We’re also looking at how many positions we would have to lose, and then also we’ve talked about salary freezes,” said Adams.

Adams said those salary freezes would have to be negotiated through bargaining units, but that it would ultimately save more than 50 positions. She said they’re actively looking at retirement incentives as well.

“None of these decisions will be easy; none of these decisions are decisions we would like to be making at this particular time, but we know that when we are looking at budget concerns such as these there are tough decisions that need to be made,” said Adams.

A budget vote date still has not been confirmed, but Adams said they’re looking to tentatively finalize their budget by mid-May.

So far the district has not had any discussions about asking the community to exceed the tax cap. The cap figure for this year is 1.96%.

As for graduation for the high school seniors, Adams said more information is needed to make a decision on how to go about it.

“Maybe we look at postponing it so that it’s in August. We don’t know that for sure. We still have to get much more information,” said Adams.

She said the school has been actively looking into ways for students to continue to be involved in clubs, activities and recognition programs virtually.

“At the high school, they have a committee where they’ve engaged the student council so that they can look at some of the things that we can bring back through a virtual format and engage students,” said Adams.

When asked about her thoughts on whether students should return to school this year and how re-entry would look, she said a decision needs to be made on whether it’s safe to do so first.

“Even with social distancing, there’s only so much that a school will be able to do regardless of how much planning we do,” said Adams.

She said if they were to re-open, they’re looking at potentially staggering class schedules to avoid having too many people in a building at once. She said current class sizes are average, but looking at the considerations for next year due to the budget, they will be larger.

Adams told NEWS10 that, so far, distance learning has been going well. The district has provided both print and online resources through Google Classroom.

A survey of families in the district revealed that 2,300 families did not have access to a computer, so they’ve been actively making sure ChromeBooks have been provided to those who need it. Of those 2,300, Adams said roughly 500 also did not have access to the internet. So the district worked with community partners, including T-Mobile, to get 600 hot spots.

“We received those today, so we’re in the process of getting those out to our families that do not have internet access,” said Adams.

They’re also asking families for input on the strengths of their distance learning measures as well as what they think the district needs to improve on to make it a smooth process for everyone.

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