SANBORN – If the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District stays within the adjusted tax cap this year, its 2013-14 budget would be more than $1.4 million short, according to district officials.
The budget is basically in place, officials have noted, except for the decisions on which programs or jobs to cut.
School officials and board members are delivering the news this month at a series of community meetings to solicit input on how to balance the spending plan. One such presentation was made last week at Errick Road Elementary School, another is slated for 7 p.m. next Tuesday in the gym at Colonial Village, and another will be the following evening at the board’s regular meeting in the adult learning center. Another session is scheduled at 7 p.m. March 21 at West Street Elementary School.
Board President Steven L. Sabo and board member Christopher L. Peters have urged the community to fill the meeting rooms and bring ideas to the board on how to balance the budget. Last year’s budget meetings drew hundreds of interested parties.
The board recently agreed not to exceed the state property tax cap, which, after adjustments, would be about 5.91 percent. If the board opted to go higher, as it did last year, a supermajority of voters, or 60 percent, would be needed to pass the budget.
At the last board meeting, district Business Executive Kerin M. Dumphrey said that if the board carries a “rollover” budget for next year by keeping expenditures the same, staying within the tax cap would leave a financial hole of $1.461 million. A rollover budget assumes that enrollment will be stable, staffing stays level, programs and services remain at current levels, and there are adjustments for inflation, he said.
However, because spending on mandatory items such as contributions to the employees’ and teachers’ retirement systems and health insurance costs have increased, while state building aid has gone down, the district can expect to spend more for the same programs.
Dumphrey said the only hope for covering the budget shortfall would be additional revenue from the state budget being considered by the Legislature or another source. He said he anticipated that any increase in state funding “won’t be enough to close the gap.”
The presentation was one of the last Dumphrey is expected to make for the school district. After 20 years with Niagara Wheatfield, Dumphrey filed to retire as of April 11, but the board approved an amendment to change the date to Friday. Instead of hiring a replacement, the district will contract with the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services for someone to fill the role two days a week. The BOCES deal is 75 percent reimbursable by the state and should save the district about $10,000, Sabo explained.