Thanks in large part to extensive in-house data collection and analysis, the Marcellus Central School District's 2010-11 budget proposes a 2.49 percent tax increase -- the smallest increase the district has imposed on taxpayers in the last 10 years.
In spite of significant funding cuts on the state and county level -- Marcellus, along with all Onondaga County school districts, faces elimination of sales tax revenue in the coming year -- the school board's approved budget will retain all programs, including athletics and extracurriculars, and cut only three full-time instructional positions.
About 75 percent of the district's unappropriated fund balance of $1,182,500 was used to balance the budget, according to Superintendent of Schools Craig Tice.
But the district's tradition of closely evaluating its own needs and performances with quarterly reports compiled by staff and faculty members allowed the board to budget for a $1.59 million reduction in funding with minimal impact on the students.
"It's like being Capt. Sully Sullenberger, bringing the plane in for as soft a landing as possible -- but make no mistake, the plane is going down," Tice said. And the annual building, superintendent and task force reports and action plans this year served the district well as life preservers, giving the board more than 10 years of detailed data upon which to base their decisions.
"These are very thoughtful decisions," Tice said of the budget. "There are no quick fixes that are going to help us."
Tice said the 2010-11 school year would be the second year the district would see a "reduction in force." Five positions stand to be cut next year; three were cut in the 2009-10 school year.
Tice said he predicts the 2011-12 budget will be just as painful, and that athletics programs may then be at stake. The most recent polls conducted by the district found that 86 percent of high school and middle school students participate in athletics.
The budget will be put to voters on Tuesday May 18, along with three seats on the school board. Incumbents Donald Keegan, Brian McNaney and Kate Welch hope to retain their seats; challenger John Fuller looks to join the board.
Look for the district's annual budget publication in early May.