The Cleveland Hill School District has about a month to finalize its 2014-15 school year budget, which is currently totaling around $10.1 million, a 1.63 percent spending increase. However, the district has to find a way to bridge a $518,388 gap between spending and revenues by the time the Board of Education votes on the plan in April.
District administrators told the Board of Education about their progress on the budget during a community forum Wednesday night. The half-million-dollar budget hole must decrease if the district hopes to present a plan that falls below its tax levy cap of 1.46 percent, which equates to just a $176,746 increase in spending.
Several aspects of the budget are in flux, including BOCES services, the rate the state sets for districts to pay into the retirement system, the district’s Project ACHIEVE initiative and additional financial aid from the state. Superintendent Jon MacSwan visited legislators and officials in Albany over the weekend, and he thinks Cleveland Hill can gain as much as $137,000 more in funds or perhaps zero.
“As the weekend went on, zero was the number I heard more,” said MacSwan, noting election-year campaigns can still swing more money the district’s way. He also believes Cleveland Hill is not being affected by the absence of an assemblyman since Dennis Gabryszak resigned in January.
“I think (additional district revenue) is more of a state issue and how they intend to address the gap elimination adjustment,” MacSwan said, referring to New York’s controversial method of reducing school aid.
The current 2014-15 budget plan keeps programs and staffing levels intact. There are various budget requests under consideration, including $42,000 for the purchase of new musical instruments and instructional equipment, $24,000 to fund the “Race to the Top” program offered by the state and about $40,500 to expand the district’s summer school program into the elementary grade levels.
Administrators are also pushing Project ACHIEVE for next year, a new program to help the district adapt to the new Common Core curriculum, analyze student data and improve student achievement. Cleveland Hill is looking at a three-year plan to implement Project ACHIEVE.
“We need to take a proactive approach,” MacSwan said. “We need to find new ways to do business. Changing the direction of a school district, whether big or small, is like turning a boat.”