Only three weeks ago, the Lake Shore School Board wrestled with massive cuts to positions and programs at its schools to produce a balanced budget. The announcement since that the district would be receiving an additional $900,000 in state aid changed that. The board adopted a $53,285,537 budget at its April 16 meeting. The document forecast revenues of $49,385,537 and and appropriation of fund balance funds of $3.9 million. However, that draw down has been reduced from an originally planned $4,772,016. That leaves the balance, $16,281,499, to be funded through the tax levy representing an increase of $371,587 over last year. The amount adds up to a 2.34 percent increase in the levy, but remains under the 2.77 percent that the state tax cap that allows for a simple majority vote.
The budget does contain a number of position cuts. There will be two fewer teachers at the high school next year, however these were cited at related to lower enrollment numbers rather than the budget. A middle school teaching position in the ALPHA program will also go, but this is being done through attrition. Late bus runs and sports runs will be eliminated as will after school review sessions. The district will also not purchase BOCES science kits and some BOCES Tech courses will end. Finally, there will be a district wide materials purchase reduction coupled with additional savings through cooperative purchases.
Assistant Superintendent Daniel Pacos led the board through each line of the budget and reminded that much of the current difficulties stem from the elimination of state gap elimination aid that he pegged at $7.6 million over the past several years.
Carla Thompson, board vice president, attended the meeting via video conference and urged her fellow members to consider increasing the levy to the tax cap limit or higher to address the continuing depletion of the fund balance. “We’re going to hit that wall eventually,” she said, “If we increase a little each year, we won’t be in that position.” Board President Jennifer Wackowski was not so sure and noted that lesser levy increases barely reached the 60 percent threshold required to exceed the cap. Observing that the budget rate at 2.34 percent is the highest the district has proposed in years.
Board member Richard Vogan thought the best approach was for the community to “Continue to pound the legislature and ask them, ‘What are you doing to my kids, my school.’”
Pacos added that he would love to avoid utilizing fund balance monies in the budget but reminded that the board saw these things coming years ago and created a larger balance to address the issue years ahead. And while large amounts have been extracted over the past several years, he noted the reduction this year, “We are slowing it down,” he said.
Superintendent James Przepasniak said, “There are no aspects of this budget that we haven’t discussed here. I hope that regardless of the tax rate, that our residents realize the cost effective, quality programs we offer.”
A proposition to purchase 3 full sized busses was also approved at a proposed amount of $350,639.80 . It will join the budget for district voters on May 21. A public hearing on the budget will be held May 14
Przepasniak reported new electronic ID badges are being distributed to all staff members. The cards, which can open school doors, will allow all district buildings to be completely locked down during all hours in compliance with the school safety program.