Press-Republican

May 14, 2014

ELCS budget within state cap

By ALVIN REINER Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The proposed Elizabethtown-Lewis 2014-15 budget has a tax levy up just .64 percent, meeting the state cap.

But keeping taxes low meant cutting some sports offerings and academic trips.

 CAREFUL PLANNING

The total proposed budget of $7,930,000 is up 3.21 percent over this year.

The levy, which is the amount to be raised by taxes, totals $3,493,087, up $22,120.

The proposed tax rate is $13.66 per $1,000 of assessed value, up 9 cents.

The total assessed value for the district is $255,641,290 which includes $1,078,250 in tax-exempt land.

“Despite a lower-than-anticipated tax-levy limit and rising costs that are fixed, we’re able to maintain the core of our academic programs because of the cost-savings measures we’ve been taking over the last four to five years,” ELCS Superintendent Scott Osborne said.

“We’re not able to restore programs and services at this time that were reduced in previous years.”

INCREASED COSTS

BOCES services will rise $32,632, which is less of an increase than last year.

“Utilizing cooperative services through CVES is, in many cases, the most cost-effective solution for our school district to deliver services to students,” Osborne said.

Debt service will be up $22,980 as a result of increases associated with principal on outstanding bonds and the bus bond from last year’s vote.

The largest increase will be for health insurance, which has increased by $102,926.

Fuel costs are up $4,000, and Teacher Retirement System contributions, $30,281.

Capital expenses will rise $100,000 as the district completes renovations to the school’s 1989 roof sections with money taken from the fund balance.

BUDGET CUTS

To offset increases and keep taxes steady, cost reductions equaling $156,750 were made.

Junior varsity basketball was eliminated, as was the annual Harvard Model United Nations trip.

The district also eliminated stipends for the Senior Play and fifth-grade-trip advisers.

The district will also deal with fewer supplies and materials, fewer conferences and workshops, less available funds in the Guidance and Administration Supply budgets, reductions in legal services and two fewer available seats for the CV-TEC program.

ELCS is projected to have fewer students with disabilities next year, resulting in decreased costs for programs and services. As a result, the district is reducing a special-education teacher position, a teaching-assistant position and a teacher-aide position.

NOT KEEPING PACE

“We’re projected to see $223,334 more in state aid next year, but that figure doesn’t keep pace with our mandated costs and the cost to provide a well-rounded experience for students,” Osborne said.

“Overall New York state aid to Elizabethtown-Lewis Central is down 8 percent since the 2008-09 school year.

“The proposed budget’s 3.21 percent increase is directly related to rising costs of doing business. We’re doing business smarter and more efficiently so we can thoughtfully respond to the increases now, while budgeting with the future in mind.”

ELCS will use more than $500,000 from the fund balance.

“This is not a sustainable practice,” Osborne warned.

“ELCS is heavily dependent on state aid and the tax levy to fund our school’s budget. When state aid is in overall decline and property-tax levies are capped, our only option is to examine how we structurally fund education here.

“We’re now operating in a ‘new normal,’ as the financial challenges for public schools aren’t going away,” the superintendent said. “Every short-term decision to conserve our resources is a move to maintain our long-term position to meet future challenges.”

He noted that in the past year and a half, the community has supported bus propositions, a building project and the annual budget.

“The board is appreciative of that support for our school,” Osborne said.

ON THE BALLOT The Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School budget vote is noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, in the main lobby. Residents will vote on: • Authorizing creation of a Capital Improvement Reserve Fund and a Transportation and Maintenance Equipment Reserve Fund. Both would have a term of 10 years with set maximum amounts for each fund. Annually, a portion of any remaining balances would fund these reserves. Voter authorization is required to establish these reserve funds and also to use funds from the reserves. • School Board candidates for two open seats. Darlene Hooper is running for the expired three-year term held by Karen Hooper. Douglas Spilling is running for the expired three-year term of Alan Jones. • A non-binding poll on whether to establish an exemption for veterans. More information on the budget is available on the district website: www.elcsd.org