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North Collins’ initial budget is again $1 million-plus short

NORTH COLLINS — The problem of making up a more than $1 million shortfall in revenue in its yearly budget is facing the North Collins School Board again, for the fourth year running.

Presenting her preliminary budget, Interim School Superintendent Joan Thomas delivered figures that she said reflect no elimination of staff or programming.

Expenditures for the 2014 – 2015 school year are expected to be $15,804,065, while estimated revenue is $14,745,008, resulting in a shortfall of $1,059,057.

Thomas offered a list of cost-reducing options for the board to consider, including maintaining the recently reorganized business office operation, for a savings of $114,138. She presented the option of keeping the current interim superintendent in place, saving $72,000 versus hiring a permanent superintendent.

Those savings reflected the current contract, which pays Thomas $400 per day to administer the district. Additional savings come from not paying into the retirement fund for her, as she is already retired.

In all, items the board controls that could be implemented immediately amount to $866,638 which, at this initial phase, would leave a budget gap of $192,419 to manage.

The largest increases in spending for next year will be in contractural personnel lines, where the school board has no say. Instruction costs will rise $435975 to $7,509,926 next year, while employee benefits are pegged at $3,008,459, an increase of $252,400, this year.

Thomas laid blame for the continued deficits on New York state. Projected aid for next year is $7,315,826, which she reported is “2.5 percent less than the district received for the 2008 – 2009 school year.” She also spoke about the continuance of the gap elimination adjustment, which has cost North Collins an additional $4,353,794 since the 2010 – 2011 school year. She said that $813,166 of that figure is expected to come from next year’s budget.

Thomas presented other expected revenue streams, which include: property tax, a $141,965 increase this year to $5,166,082, the tax cap maximum of 2.82 percent and a $20,000 increase in sales tax receipts rising to $600,000. Other sources will provide $343,100, rising $7,400 during the current year, on that line.

The superintendent also projected applying this year’s appropriated fund balance of $1,020,000, as well as tapping reserve accounts by another $300,000.

Thomas said, “This kind of state aid does not allow us to expand programing, only to maintain what we have.” She said that she was confident that there will be an increase in state aid before the final budget is approved. “It’s an election year and we have received encouragement from our local representatives that more money will be coming,” she said.

While lauding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for presenting on-time budgets during his tenure, and expecting him to do the same by April 1 this year, she offered criticism toward his priorities. “The governor talks about Common Core and teacher evaluations, then doesn’t give the funding needed to do these things,” Thomas said.

The interim superintendent cautioned that this preliminary budget is just that: a draft. She presented a suggested time table that would see her present a revised budget to the board on March 25 and could be adopted by the school board by April 8. A public hearing about the budget will take place on May 13, a week prior to the budget vote on May 20.

Thomas added that she will present several community presentations prior to the public hearing, and will add some groups who have not before been addressed.

This year’s vote will also include a proposition to purchase two four-seat school buses, along with one other vehicle. That proposition would be funded from current reserves and not affect the tax rate.

The school board seat currently held by Mark Snow is also up, this year.

In other board news:
– The board heard from “Where Eagles Dare” moderator Lisa Brosnick, who revealed that Jade Flynn, Katie Yoder, Hunter Kellerman, David and Joshua Fera, Molly Spengler, Zane Lloyd and Rebecca Walden have been chosen for the annual trip to New York City, sponsored by Bob Turnbull.

Student selection was based on endorsements from teachers; the students were judged in various categories, including integrity, hard work, politeness, respect and going out of one’s way to help others. The group will blitz through New York April 25 and 26 and will see “Momma Mia” on Broadway, tour Rockefeller Center and go backstage at Radio City Music Hall.

– Junior-Senior High School Principal Annie Metcalf said that, in addition to the $12,000-plus raised by elementary and high school students in the “Bald for Bucks” campaign, participating students received two tickets to a Buffalo Bandits game.

– Elementary Principal John Cataldo said that 10 new iPads®, donated by the school’s parent-teacher association, had arrived, bringing the total to 40 for student use, with another 12 assigned to faculty.

– According to Metcalf, a collaborative effort with the Forestville and Silver Creek School districts in grading the mid-year Regents examinations went well, with North Collins faculty’s providing much of the necessary leadership and experience.

– The board approved Janae Frascella and Amber Small as co-coaches for girls modified softball.

– Cataldo said that his building will be represented in this year’s All-County Chorus for the first time. Selected were Macie Miller and MaKenna Williams, both fifth graders, along with Morgan Smith of the sixth grade.

– The board approved the permanent appointment of Pamela Wilson as part-time clerk typist and the probationary appointment of Stephanie Baumler as teaching assistant.

– Thomas was approved as the harassment officer and Justin Ernst was named substitute bus driver for the year.

The board will next meet in a work session at 6:30 p.m. on March 11 in the high school.

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