The final New York State budget delivered smiles to officials of the Cleveland Hill School District this week, with the Board of Education unanimously approving a $30.6 million 2014-15 budget proposal that keeps tax levy increase well below the mandated cap.
State leaders approved a budget that significantly boosted aid to districts including Cleveland Hill, which had suffered under the state’s gap-elimination adjustment program, which sliced millions from revenue since its inception in 2009.
Cleveland Hill received more than $362,000 more than Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s original budget proposal.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Cleveland Hill Superintendent Jon MacSwan said.
With the additional state funding, administrators decided to use the extra revenue to lower the potential tax hike on residents.
While Cleveland Hill is allowed to propose a budget that raises the tax levy by 1.46 percent – one that can pass with a simple majority vote – the board approved a plan that cuts the tax rise in half at 0.73 percent. Some additional revenue will also be placed in the district’s fund balance account for next year.
“One thing we did not want to do is spend money because we had it,” MacSwan said. “We really try to look at this [district] as running our own private business.”
The 2014-15 budget proposal maintains all current programs and staffing levels. There are plans to create or restore some staffing positions, such as a full-time special education teacher and a part-time copy room attendant. The budget also increases money to technology, an enhanced summer school program, and equipment purchases like new musical instruments for students.
Wednesday’s meeting was a happy one for administrators as they went over the budget. The district had faced severe cuts in recent years, including the elimination of the modified sports program. Even with the state’s generous boost in revenue this year, total funding to Cleveland Hill is still $860,000 lower than it was in 2008-09.
“We feel it is a fiscally conservative, responsible budget,” MacSwan said. “It wasn’t too long ago when we weren’t able to enjoy [the school] musical or modified sports, but those things have been restored.”