OLEAN – With expected reductions in financial aid from the state and federal governments, the Olean City School District may have to reduce its staff by nine positions, including four instructional jobs, according to School Superintendent Colleen Taggerty.
However, no final decisions have been made, because of uncertainty over funding sources and increases in teacher-retirement and health-insurance costs.
The Olean School District is considering a total budget of $37.5 million for the 2013-14 school year, with a proposed tax levy increase of 3.75 percent that would raise $492,334 in additional revenue for the district.
While the proposed tax levy increase is greater than the widely discussed 2 percent “cap,” there is an eight-step formula to determine the actual percentage that tax levies can be raised, according to district business officer Kathy Elser.
The district’s tax-levy increase could go as high as 4.27 percent with a simple majority vote in the budget referendum.
“We are hoping to reduce that 3.75 percent number as we see more and more of the new state aid runs come out,” Taggerty said.
The state runs are a listing of the amount of aid that each school district will get. Those numbers are in a state of flux until closer to the date when the district will finalize its tentative budget for the districtwide vote.
A new wrinkle in the aid dance, according to Taggerty, is the federal sequester. Olean schools stand to lose close to $80,000 in federal aid. That alone would be something to plan for, but with the sequester still being played out, it isn’t easy to plan.
“We have no idea which areas will be cut,” Taggerty said. “It could be title programs. It could be IDEA funding. We just don’t know at this time.”
As numbers change at the state level, one of the nonmandated programs that would see changes could be reinstated, Taggerty said. As of this school year, the prekindergarten program is a full day. That would become a half-day program, saving the district $227,000. Staff cuts would also come from that reduction.
Previously, the full-day instruction had been funded through an Early Reading First grant. That grant, intended to be a three-year program, was managed to last for a fourth year in the district. It expires this year, creating a funding gap.
“If we see enough of an increase in the state runs, we could reinstate the program to full-day,” Taggerty said. “If there is an increase in the aid, but not enough to cover the $227,000, we would put that increase into lowering that 3.75 percent tax-levy increase.”
The next step in the budget process will be to present the tentative budget to the public at a hearing May 14, with the districtwide vote to take place a week later, May 21.