Discussion about the 2020-21 budget once again highlighted the meeting of the Tioga Central Board of Education on Tuesday night.

The board approved a new budget — for the second time this month — that is 4.48 percent less than the one initially proposed in February.

“We have been working on a plan to adopt a budget that is reduced, but has what we would like to see in it,” Superintendent Dr. David Hamilton said.

The plan includes freezing as much current expenditures as possible, and saving unused funds for next school year as a way to prevent mid-year cuts.

“The reality is that we can’t create a budget to account for cuts in all three adjustment periods,” Hamilton added.

The current adjustment period runs through the end of May.

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state could face up to a 20 percent cut in education aid. Such cuts would result in a reduction of about $2.1 million in aid for Tioga Central.

However, Cuomo recently announced that he will hold off on announcing those cuts, as the state awaits word on what will happen with the current relief bill recently passed by the House of Representatives in Washington. Though this current edition of the bill is unlikely to be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, Hamilton said he is “moderately optimistic” that it will provide funding of some sort for education.

Even if funding is delivered, difficulties are likely to arise in deciding how to allocate the money, as nobody is sure what the education environment will look like in the Fall.

“The COVID pandemic has turned upside down so many of our givens,” Hamilton said.

“Now (we are) in a position where we will have to figure some way to keep them at a distance from each other, to decrease the number of surfaces they might touch. All of that presents some enormous challenges, and we don’t have enough clear guidance as we need to make concrete plans.”

The new budget allows for increased flexibility to adapt to the fluid situation.

In addition to budget concerns, other difficulties discussed were how the district would continue instruction should schools be closed to in-person learning through the fall.

According to school officials, not every student in the district is able to access the internet, which creates a delay in instruction and communication between teachers and students.

Other difficulties include the need for constant supervision and guidance at the elementary level, as well as teaching technology classes at the middle and high school levels.

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