By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Graham asked residents and members of the Board of Education to pressure state lawmakers to complete their tardy state budget.
While the state budget is overdue, the district must adopt its own spending plan for 2017-18 by April 18.
During a third Board of Education budget review meeting Monday in the Professional Development Room of Grand Island High School, Graham told the board trustees that the lack of a state budget is "a significant issue for school districts all across New York state, so significant that some districts may have to decide to lay people off."
The late state budget is "devastating" to some districts, but not to GI, Graham said, which he called "in better shape." He advised the trustees to reach out to the Island's legislators - State Sen. Chris Jacobs and Assemblyman Angelo Morinello - to let them know "even during this delay, if they could focus on school budget and school aid, even get that information out before the entire budget's complete in New York state, that would help all districts."
Graham asked the community as well to "put a little pressure on them to get the budget done, to follow their deadline and to help public schools across the state plan for the future."
Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Robert McDow briefed the trustees on the most up-to-date budget numbers for the district.
The proposed 2017-18 budget rises from $60,977,971 to $62,679,931, an increase of $1,701960, or 2.79 percent. The real property tax levy would rise from $32,281,397 to $33,126,298, up 2.62 percent, the maximum allowed under the state tax cap. The tax rate would increase 1.6 percent with the assumption of an increased assessed valuation in the town. McDow said there are expansion projects in the works on the Island that will increase the assessed value of the town an estimated $16 million.
For a $180,000 house with the STAR exemption, the 1.6 percent increase equates to an increase of about $45-$46, McDow said.
"Our mission is to foster academic excellence, personal growth, and social responsibility. We feel this budget adheres to all of those three standards, and we would like to recommend it to our board," McDow said.
The budget assumes a 2.75 percent increase in state aid, which is up in the air as the lawmakers dicker on the budget. Trustee Karen Carroll asked what the district will do if there is no state budget by the April 18 deadline. McDow said if the state budget is still delayed, the district would go ahead with its current assumptions and use some of its $11 million in reserves to cover whatever gap eventuates.
He said he was confident "that would not be an issue."
The next budget meeting is May 8, and the community budget vote is May 16.