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The separation incentive that resulted in 132 people leaving their jobs in the West Seneca School District earlier this year drained $4.6 million from the fund balance, an independent auditor told the School Board on Monday.

Matthew J. Montalbo, a senior manager with Drescher & Malecki, provided a glimpse of the draft 2012-13 audit report, which will not be made public until it’s final. Specifically, he noted an overall reduction of $6 million in the fund balance, most of which was attributable to the incentive.

The 2012-13 school year began with a fund balance of $11.8 million and ended with $5.8 million; of that, $5.5 million is restricted reserves for employee-related costs.

The separation incentive “was a large hit to the district,” Montalbo said.

“The message going forward is to continue to monitor those fund balances,” he said. “There’s so much uncertainty for school districts.”

But the hit to the fund balance wasn’t news to district officials; they said it was part of a plan.

“Our fund balance has diminished substantially over the last five years … to downsize the district,” said Treasurer Brian L. Schulz. More than 250 jobs have been eliminated during that period.

People may have wondered whether the separation incentive was to eliminate jobs or targeted employees with high salaries, Schulz said.

“This incentive was designed … to reduce our staffing. We have done so in a very significant way,” Schulz said. Fewer than 10 vacancies – including the position of district clerk – have been filled, he added.

Otherwise, the district would have faced up to 260 layoffs, Schulz said.

The roughly $106.8 million current budget reflects a reduction of more than $1.3 million from the previous year.

“Our budget is down, and I would very much expect our budget to be parallel in the next fiscal year,” Schulz said. “I don’t expect it to go up.”

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com