The budget process for Grand Island schools began in earnest Monday evening at the Board of Education meeting.
Superintendent of Schools Robert Christmann and Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Loraine Ingrasci reported 2011-12 major expenditure items. The items would increase the unadjusted 2011-12 budget in the amount of $2,561,766, or 4.94 percent over last year's budget.
The year-to-year challenge, according to Christmann, is to provide a complete education program for students at a time when many budget items will increase by several percentage points. State aid was lost to the 2010-11 budget and will be again to 2011-12.
Ingrasci and Christmann presented predicted revenue losses for 2011-12 budget purposes.
Christmann referred to the $474,145 revenue loss as a figure that puts budget "in the red." The state aid problem is then compounded by a staggering $2,561,766 in annual mandatory budget increases:
•Contractual Salaries: $1,060,566
•Benefit Increases: (Health Insurance) $570,000
•Retirement System Increases: $417,500
•BOCES Service Increases: $300,000
•FICA, Utilities, Building Maintenance: $213,700
These increases, coupled with the $474,145 revenue loss, makes for a total unadjusted levy increase of $3,035,911, bringing the 2011-12 unadjusted levy to taxpayers to $30,693,430, or a percent levy increase of 10.98.
"This is NOT an acceptable number," Christmann told trustees. Christmann warned of line-by-line budget cuts in non-mandated areas and of looking for other ways to generate revenue. Further, he said that the next couple of months will be difficult as the board and administrators look to formulate a budget that would be good for the education of students and reasonable for the wallets of Grand Island residents. The board will hold a budget workshop on Monday, Jan. 31, at 6:30 p.m. at the Ransom Road complex.
In other news, trustee Glenn Bobeck spoke about the status of Eco Island Nature Preserve, which the district uses for many extra classroom learning experiences. Bobeck said that review of the building's condition was necessary "to keep it going," but he was not sure of the building's eligibility for state aid.
The board also discussed posting of additional signage prohibiting snowmobiles on school grounds. Board president Richard Little indicated substantial damage that happens each winter from snowmobilers driving over pitcher's mounds and other parts of the athletic fields behind the Ransom Road complex. "It doesn't make sense for us to be spending money repairing these areas year after year."
The board also approved the 2011-12 school calendar, which once again includes a pre-Labor Day start to the year. The Grand Island teachers union approved an early start, which has teachers in their buildings on Aug. 29, with students' first day being Wednesday, Aug. 31. June 21 is the last day of the year with a six-day break in December and a full week break in February. Spring break has an added day in April to accommodate travel plans for students, teachers and their families.
Regarding the 2011-12 class schedule for seniors, Christmann told trustees that seniors are required to take five classes plus their physical education class, but that six classes may be the preferred minimum. Christmann also informed the board that in 2010, 15 seniors did not graduate with their class in June. "Some districts allow seniors to participate in the graduation exercises anyway, assuming summer school, but Grand Island does not." He said that 10 of those 15 students who did not make it in June made up their requirements since then and received their diplomas.
In Good News, Christmann lauded Grand Island students for their many humanitarian activities in the community including collections for the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation and the Salvation Army and the work the Venture Yearbook Staff did at the Buffalo City Mission to prepare lunches and organize the mission's food pantry.
The next Grand Island regular Board of Education meeting is Monday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. in the Veronica Connor Middle School Little Theater.