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Grand Island School District to grapple with tough budget again

by jmaloni
Fri, Feb 10th 2012 09:00 am

by Kathleen Duff

The Grand Island School District held a 2012-13 budget forum on Monday evening, opening the budget development process to the public in order to get residents' input on their priorities for students in the area's five schools.

According to Superintendent of Schools Robert Christmann, the district projects a "huge gap" of $6,809,456 between the 2012-13 preliminary budget and the possible revenues for the year. The district's challenge is to determine how best to pare back expenditures while still providing a quality education at a fair tax levy.

Board President David Goris told the small gathering: "As we go through this cycle, there will be cuts ... quite a few potentials."  Many revenues that came into the district for 2011-12 will be missing and irreplaceable this year: $990,515 from the federal education jobs fund, $600,000 from the debt service reserve allocation, unemployment reserve allocation of $3,000, employee retirement reserve allocation of $300,000 and an appropriated fund balance of $2,5000,000. Major impact items such as staff salaries, health insurance, the employee and teacher retirement systems, utilities, BOCES expenses, special education tuitions and building maintenance are projected to increase by a total of $2,318,941.

Officials anticipate New York state aid to decrease again this year, continuing a trend that has amounted to a $3 million reduction to Grand Island schools over the past three years. Each million dollars has a potential of raising the local tax rate by 3 percent. However, the trend on Grand Island over the past few years has been for tax rate increases to be small, with a low of 0 percent to a high of 1.7 percent. Each year, Christmann and the board have expressed the desire to give students the best educational product while being sensitive to what residents can support during a difficult economic climate. District objectives for this year's budget process include sound financial planning for the long term as well as stabilization of tax rate increases.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Loraine Ingrasci gave information on the district's tax levy limit, which is 3.61 percent this year. The tax levy is the school budget amount minus all other sources of revenue for the schools. A 50 percent or greater "yes" vote from town residents would be required for this to pass.  A levy increase greater than 3.61 percent would require a 60 percent or greater vote. Christmann added that the Grand Island district has grown, and therefore, the tax levy limit has "some flexibility."

He detailed many "possibles" in a list of non-personnel and personnel budget reductions. Among the areas to be examined are:

•Field trips

•Supplies and equipment

•BOE budget

•Busing distance guidelines

•High school elective courses

•Number of teachers, administrators, clerical staff

The Board of Education will approve a budget by March 30. A public vote on the budget will take place in May.

Trustees and administrators urge the public to attend school board meetings to become more fully informed on the budget process.

The next regular meeting of the Grand Island Board of Education is Monday, Feb. 13, in the Veronica Connor Middle School Little Theater at 6:30 p.m.

Board of Education Trustees

President: David Goris

Vice President: Tak Nobumoto

Trustees: Glenn Bobeck, Paul Krull, Joan Droit, Donna Tomkins, Emily Ciraolo

Superintendent: Robert Christmann

District Clerk: Janet Schuster

Send comments to the board at [email protected].

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