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Lake Shore School District facing $1.5 million budget gap with a pair of budget meetings on tap

With time dwindling before the Lake Shore Central School District approves a spending plan to be voted on by residents, Superintendent James E. Przepasniak said several important decisions are still being made to close a $1.5 million budget gap.

A $1.1 million increase in pension costs is one of the main issues causing the problem, Przepasniak said.

“It’s out of our control,” Przepasniak said.

The superintendent said there are several difficult decisions to be made. He noted that in recent years, due partly in loss of state aid, the district has closed two elementary schools, laid off teachers and administrators and has worked on ways to cut utility costs and reduce the amount of bus routes.

Daniel W. Pacos, assistant superintendent for administration and finance, said the district has been working on gap elimination adjustments for several years.

Pacos said loss in revenue has forced the district to try and save about $18 million in the last four years.

“We’re not getting the aid,” Pacos said.

“We’re looking to reduce programs,” Przepasniak said.

According to the superintendent, one option the board is discussing is passing a budget that would be above the 2 percent tax cap.

Pacos said this is allowable, but in order for the budget to pass, at least 60 percent of the voters would have to approve it.

“Our community has supported us,” Przepasniak said.

Pacos admitted this would be a risky move because the stakes are much higher.

No matter what, there is still work to be done to try and slash the deficit. If the budget passed in its current state, it would call for a 10 percent tax cap levy, which is a figure that Przepasniak said will not be presented to be voted on by district residents.

On a positive note, Przepasniak said when the process began, the district was initially facing a $2.5 million budget gap, but the governor’s proposal for state aid was higher than anticipated and most of the $1 million shaved off that budget gap was as a result of the proposed increase in state aid.

The district also was able to refinance some of its debt to a lower interest rate, which also helped reduce the deficit.

A retirement incentive was also offered to eligible district employees and Przepasniak said a total of 12 employees (both instructional and non-instructional) are taking advantage of the incentive.

Those retirements still need to be approved by the board and once the board accepts those and decides which, if any, of those positions need to be refilled, that will help trim some of the $1.5 million gap.

There are a pair of budget work sessions on tap. One is Tuesday, March 19 and the other is Monday, March 25.

During those sessions, Przepasniak said the board will discuss ways to try and reduce the deficit further. They will examine class sizes, class sections and take a look at enrolling trends to help make decisions about reductions.

Przepasniak believes the March 19 meeting will be filled with more discussion and expects more decisions on cuts to take place at the March 25 meeting.

The district has also reached out to its bargaining units to see if there is anything that can be done to save positions.

Przepasniak said he has not held any formal discussions and there is nothing to report at this time.

He also noted that two of the three unions – the Teamsters and the Administrative Association – unions will have their contracts expire on June 30.

“We have reached out to the Teachers Association to consider some concessions,” Przepasniak said.

The budget is expected to be adopted at its April 16 meeting.

Pacos said a budget hearing will be held on May 14 with the annual budget and trustee vote to be held on Tuesday, May 21.

The seats currently held by Cynthia Lattimore, Dennis Feldmann and Diane Scritchfield will be up for election and Przepasniak said petitions for those interested in running for the school board are now available at the district clerk’s office.

Petitions must be filed with the district clerk no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, April 22.

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