Revisions to employee benefits, as well as savings through retirements, have helped reduce the projected deficit in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District’s budget for 2014-15 from approximately $7.3 million to a little over $3.4 million.
Still, homeowners still are looking at paying an additional $57 in taxes on a property with a market value of $100,000.
Changes to what is now a draft budget of approximately $153.2 million were reviewed during a work session Tuesday night in Hoover Middle School. The School Board plans to adopt a budget April 8.
“We’ve made good progress in the last month, and obviously we haven’t had to touch any of the things that we really don’t want to touch this budget year,” said Gerald J. Stuitje, assistant superintendent for finance.
At the district’s first budget work session Feb. 4, preliminary figures on employee benefits were estimates.
“We had place-holders in that were very conservative,” he said. “As we examined these budgets and did projections we were able to reduce most, if not all, of them.”
Workers’ compensation was reduced by $200,000 while unemployment insurance premiums saw a $275,000 drop.
The health insurance budget was reduced by $495,000, which Stuitje called “significant.”
“It’s running very, very well this year,” he said. “Because we’re self-insured, you’re always a little bit hesitant. But we feel we’re running so well that we’re able to take that out of the place-holder we have for next year.”
In addition, a finalization last week of the state property tax cap formula allowed the district to raise its levy threshold to 2.75 percent resulting in a deficit reduction of $842,512.
Officials also anticipate 12 retirements this year. The savings from “breakage” – replacing people at the top of the pay scale with others who will be paid less – was estimated at $540,000.
Still more reductions have come from obtaining accurate information about the district’s responsibilities to Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The actual numbers came in with a net reduction of $415,000.
Officials again decried the district’s projected loss of more than $7 million in state aid next year because of to a budgeting tool known as the “gap elimination adjustment,” which the state installed in 2010 to balance its budget.
“Our cumulative total in gap elimination money is approaching $40 million,” Stuitje said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget proposal for next year would diminish the adjustment for districts, but Stuitje said Ken-Ton would see only a 6 percent reduction while the state average is 20 percent.
A proposition to buy some buses is expected to be on the May 20 ballot along with the budget proposal. Approval of the proposition would allow the purchase of four 65-passenger buses and four 29-passenger buses for a total of $685,000. State aid is expected to cover 70 percent of that.
The next budget work session will be held March 25 in the Franklin Middle School auditorium.