West Seneca school officials spent the past few months on an operation to rescue the district’s 2013-14 budget, which was on a trajectory toward financial disaster.
By all indications a pair of controversial measures – including the buyouts or retirements of 132 employees, closing of an elementary building and reconfiguration of its middle school program – successfully achieved that goal, district administrators said Thursday at a budget forum in West Elementary School.
“We have not really reduced our programming,” said Superintendent Mark J. Crawford. “Kids still have the wonderful opportunities they’ve had for learning.”
Crawford added: “It’s a real tribute to everybody in the system ... It’s a very challenging time.
“There are not a lot of districts and communities that have been able to do what we’re able to be doing.”
What the district will be able to accomplish in its projected budget of $105.1 million to $106.8 million is reducing its costs, maintaining its level of academic and extracurricular programming and meeting its obligations while staying within the state’s mandated property tax cap.
Residents will still likely see a 2 to 3 percent increase in school taxes.
Next year’s proposed budget is between $1.3 million and $3 million less than the current year’s – accounting for the savings realized by the employee incentives and the middle school reconfiguration – and nearly $9-10 million under where the district could have been without those savings.
“If our budget had jumped to $115 million, it would have been devastating,” explained Crawford.
Added Brian L. Schulz, the district’s treasurer: “We would have had an $8.5 million to $10 million gap.”
Schulz said that despite the drop in the overall budget, West Seneca will actually increase its instructional programming by about $600,000.
Two of the most poignant parts of Schulz’s presentation involved the evaporation of the district’s once-$20 million fund balance and details about its obligations to the state retirement system for pensions.
For further information, consult a replay of an online Buffalo News Live blog of this budget presentation at BuffaloNews.com. email: firstname.lastname@example.org