Mar 24, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
The Skaneateles Board of Education discussed the three referendums the district plans to put up for vote this year at its Feb. 18 meeting.
The May 20 ballot will include public approval for: the district’s proposed $30 million operating budget, a purchase of two new school buses and a $2 million capital project for facility repairs.
The proposed 2014-15 budget totals $30,194,522 a 0.45 percent increase from last year. Former Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Dale Bates explained several aspects of the budget at the meeting including the formula for the state-mandated tax cap, which this year is 1.64 percent. That means the district can levy a maximum of $23,371,984 in property taxes and still only need a simple majority public approval.
Despite the modest growth in the total budget and tax levy, the budget is still $223,918 short due to decreasing revenue, Bates said. In order to cover that gap the district could levy more taxes, which would require a 60 percent public approval, or find a way to decrease expenses. The board will discuss its options at a work session to be held at 7 p.m. on April 1 in the district office.
The board is challenged in trying to communicate with the public the limitations the district has due to the tax cap and other state policies, Board Member Margaret Usdansky-Niebuhr said.
“It’s critical to realize that there are very large expenditures that we cannot opt not to expend. We have no control over retirement, we have no control over healthcare and we are hit again and again with mandates from Albany,” she said.
Some expenses in the budget have already been reduced, such as instruction, which is estimated to decrease $67,845.
Interim Superintendent of School Judy Pastel reported that the district will reduce its staff by eliminating numerous full-time-equivalent positions. Most of the decreases come through attrition where the district will not fill a vacant position that is no longer necessary due to declining enrollment. The district will not terminate any tenured or probationary full-time teachers this year, Pastel said.
The district also reduced its administrative staff by eliminating one principal position and opting to share a business manager with the Weedsport Central School District.
Elsewhere in the budget, the district will increase its guidance counselor staff by 0.5 (restoring that staff to its previous levels) and will pay $12,000 total in stipends for technology trainers as a part of its staff development.
The district will need to pay $54,843 to convert its student information system to the new School Tools program and it will transfer $75,000 from its reserves to cover the deficit of the school lunch program. The budget also calls for $45,000 of reserve money to be transferred to the general fund, the 13-14 budget used $355,000 of reserves, which largely depleted that account.
The purchase of two new buses, to replace two old ones, will cost $232,000 which would be paid for with bond anticipation notes over a five-year period and paid back over a 15-year period, Bates said.
The capital improvements project, is the second phase of needed facilities work. The first phase was approved by voters last December. The project will total $2.033 million and includes a roof replacement for Waterman Primary School, replacing a boiler and piping and ventilation, replacing the high school intercom, safety and security upgrades for the high school and new stage curtains for the high school auditorium.
The stage curtains are expected to cost $25,000 and were added because it is a pressing need and the rest of the planned auditorium work won’t be done for about five or six years, Bates said.
The Waterman roof replacement is an urgent matter. Bates reported that recent weather had created a 20-foot gash in the roof that had to be temporarily patched. The high school safety upgrades involves installing camera to improve security to the main entrance to the building.
Though this project includes money to replace a boiler for the high school/middle school building, the piping won’t be replaced until the district begins work on its planned phase three, because it would require asbestos abatement.
The board voted to adopt the bus and capital project referendums at the meeting. It will further discuss the budget on April 1 before holding a public hearing and adopting the final budget referendum at its April 8 meeting.
Budget documents have been made available on the district website, skanschools.org, and Pastel urged the community members in attendance to contact her to set up a meeting if they had specific questions to ask.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.