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.