Press-Republican

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March 24, 2014

Fund balance may help fill ELCS budget gap

E'town school chief calls on state to restore aid

ELIZABETHTOWN — A $363,363 gap exists between revenues and expenditures in the proposed Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School 2014-15 budget.

Closing it, ELCS Superintendent Scott Osborne said at a recent meeting, may mean again calling on the fund balance.

Such stressors in budget development, he said jokingly, are reflected by “the big bottle of Tums on my desk.”

Maintaining a viable educational program, he said, is much hindered by state mandates and limited funding.

And then there’s the state’s tax-levy cap, which is set for each district by a complicated formula, Osborne said.

“It is good for taxpayers, but not good for us.”

POSSIBLE OVERRIDE

Expenditures so far were totaling $8,092,134, the superintendent said, with proposed revenues at $7,728,771.

Since the 2008-2009 budget, he said, ELCS has withdrawn an average of about $473,500 per year from the fund balance to close such gaps, a trend that cannot continue for many more years.

On the expenditure side there are anticipated increases in salaries, health-insurance premiums, retirement contributions, fuel, supplies and BOCES services. 

Income primarily comes from state aid and property taxes, and Osborne indicated that the district would need to close the gap through increases in state aid, streamlining operations, use of the fund balance, and levy increase.

That might mean a tax-cap override that would require at least a 60 percent super-majority vote in May.

MANY CUTS

Over the past few years, Osborne said, the district has had to eliminate elementary and high-school teaching positions and those of some teaching assistants, administrators, custodians, bus drivers and administrative assistants. 

In the academic realm, the school has eliminated Spanish, some art and music courses and certain elective high-school courses. 

In addition, ELCS has attempted to make its operations more efficient and has also shared services with other districts and municipalities to cut costs, he said.

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