Morrisville-Eaton School District Superintendent Michael Drahos like to think of himself as an optimistic person but he had difficulty maintaining that persona when he shared his concerns with the members of the Morrisville Lions Club last Thursday evening. Drahos presented a slide show on the effect of recent efforts by Governor Paterson to reduce the budget deficit that the state in currently under. He called his presentation "Impending Financial Challenges facing our learning community" and added that the best he could predict for the district is "somewhere between bad and grim."
Drahos said that the state's crisis is part of a much bigger picture that just Morrisville-Eaton, but that changes being asked of school districts will impact smaller districts more heavily. That is because about 70 percent of the district budget comes from State Aid, a complex formula that determines what a district will receive. Some of the larger school districts receive less than half that amount and can deal with reductions a bit more easily. Just last year the state adopted a more reliable predictor of state assistance called Foundation Aid. That aid for Morrisville-Eaton showed a 12 percent increase over three years. Long term contracts and staffing decisions were based on this amount. To add to the problem, Morrisville-Eaton has experienced an unusually large drop in enrollment. The past year the number of students being taught in district buildings has dropped from 875 to 808. Since part of the state aid formula is based on the number of students, M-E is getting a double dose of bad news.
Currently there are discussions in Albany about freezing or cutting the state aid. To get a sense of the size of that impact on Morrisville-Eaton, Drahos said that a 2 percent decrease in state aide would equal $172,000, almost double the entire local tax levy increase for last school year.