Potential budget gaps, bigger classes and scaled-back capital projects greeted the Amherst Board of Education at its regular meeting Tuesday evening in the board room in Amherst Middle School.
“When you compare revenues to expenditures,” said school business administrator Melanie Conley, who had updated budget projections for the next three years, “we have a structural issue here.”
The anticipated budget gaps, she noted, would be almost $1.4 million next year, $2.2 million in 2015-16 and $1.58 million in 2016-17. Staff reductions and retirements, she said, will help close the gap next year.
Two elementary teachers and an art teacher will be eliminated by attrition, she noted, while fractions of a reading teacher position and a custodial position will be covered by reassignments.
“The goal is to work with current retirements,” Superintendent Laura K. Chabe said. “And there will be some increase in class size.”
But Conley also had some good news. The district should be able to stay within its tax levy limits, she said, even though spending could go up 2.82 percent next year, 5.34 percent in 2015-16 and 4.97 percent in 2016-17.
There was more bad news from the district’s architect, Jerry Young, about the current capital improvement program.
Bids have come in above estimates, he explained, so much that it will cost nearly $2 million more than the $23.8 million approved in the last bond issue to finish all the projects. He blamed the boom in construction in Buffalo for driving up costs.
“Right now, with the bidding climate that we see,” he said, “we don’t think we can accomplish it.”
His suggestion – delay the start of the heating and ventilating system upgrades and other work at Windermere Elementary School, which are expected to cost about $2 million.
Bearing mostly good news was Patrick Murphy, director of health, physical education and athletics, who noted that the middle school and high school athletic teams have attracted 200 more students than they did last year.
The best news of the night – a fundraising idea – came from Mark Ahrens, president of the Amherst Central Alumni Foundation.
His proposal? Sell dedications for the 1,200-plus seats in the high school auditorium. A $100 donation would dedicate – but not reserve – a seat for 10 years, he said. A $200 donation would secure a dedication for the life of the seat.
The money, he said, could be used by the Music Department.
“It sounds like a great idea,” said board president David A. Stocking. “You don’t need our approval, just our agreement. Depending on the success of this, there’s potential to do more things.”
In other matters, board member William Schaflucas announced that he would resign at the end of the month because he is moving to a new home just outside the district. With two years remaining on his term, his seat will be added to the ballot in May’s School Board election.