Mar 11, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
The Skaneateles School District’s current estimates have it short of breaking even for its 2014-15 operating budget, Interim Superintendent of Schools Judy Pastel said at a March 4 school board work session.
The district may need to find another $223,918 in order to balance its budget and remain within the tax cap.
The budget gap could end up being smaller once the district has final estimates for its revenues for the 2014-15 school year, Pastel said. It is still possible that the district gets increased state aid if the state legislators act on recent appeals to restore school funding that has been reduced under its Gap Elimination Adjustment policy.
If the budget remains short, the district will have to balance it either by cutting something, using possible leftover funds from the current fiscal year or by raising taxes.
However, the district’s ability to cover the difference with taxes is limited by the state-imposed tax cap, which is determined by an economic growth factor. The cap for the district this year will be 1.64 percent, meaning the district’s tax levy won’t be allowed to exceed $23,371,984. The board does have the option to levy more than the cap, though it would then need to get a supermajority approval (60 percent) from the public on the May 20 vote.
The district previously announced that it would not have to lay off any full time staff members, though it will be able to shrink its staff through attrition, which means some retiring teachers may not be replaced. Pastel also said that there are some part-time teachers who may not be brought back. Though it does save money, shrinking the teaching staff has been driven only by declining enrollment thus far, she said.
One area Pastel identified as needing improvement is the school lunch program. Next year’s budget will require $75,000 of reserve funds to cover the deficit of the lunch program.
The budget also includes a one-time aid payment from the state of $198,000 the district gets for converting to full-day kindergarten.
The district did not have estimates on the tax rate for property owners under the proposed budget, but the board will review the full budget at its March 18 meeting and at an April 1 work session, before adopting the budget on April 8.
—Pastel provided a few more details about the proposed contract with Weedsport Central School District to share a business manager.
If the districts entered into the arrangement, the Weedsport business manager, Doug Tomandl, would be responsible only for the financial duties of the position with Skaneateles. Former business manager Dale Bates, who retired at the end of February, was also the district clerk and was responsible for supervision of transportation, facilities and food services. Under the arrangement, those duties would be given to other employees of the district, including the current district treasurer.
The district would not have to hire any new employees and would not have to deal with a “legacy cost” of paying out retirement benefits, Pastel said.
Several board members showed support for the idea of saving money through sharing services with other districts. “It’s really the model of the future,” Board Member Evan Dreyfuss said.
The board will vote on the matter at its next meeting.
—The board will also vote on a proposed capital improvements project at its next meeting. The project is the second phase of facility work that is needed, mainly for the high school/middle school building. The project carries a total cost of $2,007,000, to be bonded for and paid back over a longer period of time. It includes: replacing the roof over the south wing of Waterman School, replacing a boiler in the high school, replacing the high school intercom system and safety and security upgrades for the high school.
The project, if approved by the board, will appear as a referendum on the May 20 ballot with the operating budget and a referendum to purchase new buses.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.