The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda school district presented its first view Tuesday night of a 2013-14 budget totaling approximately $151 million, which requires a climb out of an almost $3.1 million hole.
Officials repeatedly emphasized during the budget work session that they’re at the starting line.
“This is not a recommended budget at all,” said School Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro. “We are not at that point, clearly.”
The first draft reflects information in hand as of late last week; some numbers already have changed.
“This is a fluctuation type of document – I want to keep emphasizing that,” said Gerald J. Stuitje, assistant superintendent for finance.
Take the deficit, for instance.
As of Jan. 22, the district projected a deficit of $2.5 million. But since then, it has learned that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget won’t provide as much state aid as expected – the net increase is $120,000. Plus the district is looking at increases in workers’ compensation costs, charter school tuition and BOCES-related expenses.
“I’m hoping that what we have here, deficit-wise, is the high-water mark,” Stuitje said.
Another recent piece of information – the district’s contribution to the teachers retirement system – lowered the projected property tax increase from 5.4 percent to 5.21 percent. Other savings in pension costs are possible through the governor’s executive budget.
“There’s a lot of details in this proposal that are not out yet,” Stuitje said.
Budgets submitted by the transportation and buildings and grounds departments reflect year-to-year decreases, while the athletics and physical education budget shows a nominal increase. Meanwhile, the $115,871 increase in the information technology department’s budget is tied to BOCES.
This year’s closing of Jefferson Elementary School will save the district at least $1 million. Potential savings resulting from the districtwide consolidation study, currently under way, wouldn’t be part of next school year’s budget, however.
There’s much work to be done on the budget before April 9, the date the School Board expects to adopt it.
“This budget does not take into account any potential retirements or incentives,” Stuitje said. And because of the projected enrollment decline of 2.56 percent, administrators are looking to reduce payroll costs by that amount for non-instructional staff.
It appears that a proposition to buy some buses will be on the May ballot along with the budget proposal.
There’s a pitch to buy two 66-passenger buses; one wheelchair bus; and four 30-passenger buses at a cost of $525,046. State aid is expected to cover 70 percent of that.
“We bought no buses last year,” said Stuitje, who later noted that there are more than 20 buses nearing the end of their service lives.
Susan Battaglia, who lives on Deerhurst Park Boulevard, questioned whether that money would be better spent elsewhere.
“Is it really necessary? A lot of people in this community are making sacrifices,” she said.
School Board President Bob Dana noted that the cost of new buses is offset by state aid, while repairs to the existing fleet are not.
“It’s an aging fleet. It still is a pretty large operation,” Mondanaro added. “It becomes a health and safety issue.”