City school officials are taking steps to head off a projected $300,000 budget deficit, which may be triggered by the cost of substitute teachers and teachers who are sent to instruct sick and suspended students at their homes.
Projections show the district may overspend its substitute teacher budget this year by $196,798 and its contract with Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services to send teachers to students' homes by $100,458.
Superintendent Carmen A. Granto said his administration will attempt to prevent that from happening by restricting the type of training programs that take regular teachers out of the classroom and require substitutes to temporarily replace them.
He also said he is trying to find ways other than out-of-school suspensions to deal with students who cause problems, because it requires the district to pay a BOCES teacher to go to their homes to educate them, as mandated by state law.
Of course, there is no deficit this early in the school year.
"We're not absolutely sure this is going to happen. These are just areas of concern we really need to watch because they've gone over budget in the past. If we follow history over the last couple of years, it's going to happen again. So we are trying to watch this very closely and do something to prevent it," said District Business Manager James J. Ingrasci.
Last year, the district was able to cover the extra cost because it underspent in other budget areas and the School Board was able to transfer the leftover money into the substitute teacher and BOCES program accounts, Ingrasci said.
Since the district can't count on other budget items being underspent, he said, "Right now we are trying to stop (overspending on substitutes and home teachers).
"Substitutes come in due to teacher absences or when teachers attend staff development programs or have to go to a conference or a training program. So we're working diligently to keep that expense down by restricting the amount of training sessions and conferences scheduled during regular school days to those that are necessary."
"We plan to scrutinize each request to make sure the training is critical, that it's necessary," Ingrasci said. "We're just not going to approve it if it's not. If we can do without it, we'll do without it. Or, we'll have them schedule it for a time when it can be done outside of the school day. A lot of training is nice, but it's not always necessary."