Weekly Feature



2017-04-19 / Front Page

Board of Education adopts $80.2 million budget

by ETHAN POWERS
Editor

The Clarence Board of Education voted on Monday to approve adoption of a previously reported $80.2 million budget for the 2017-18 school year.

A 1.7 percent rise in the tax levy will garner roughly $800,000, which will result in an estimated tax rate of $14.67 per $1,000 assessed value.

“In our district, we use a $200,000 house as the average. That would be about $28 a year,” said Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks. “The real dollar increases here are likely to be lower than this, once the total assessed value of the Town of Clarence is created and given to us in August when the board sets the actual tax rate.”

The numbers approved by the Board of Education indicate that while the 2017-18 school year will see no reductions in staff and a maintenance of all existing programs, the $800,000 generated from the tax levy will not be enough to add new staff or programming.

Included in the 2017-18 budget will be a $500,000 increase in the district’s appropriated fund balance, or surplus.

“That’s the way we’re making up the difference between the amount of state aid we needed in order to balance the budget and the amount of state aid we actually received,” Hicks said.

Approximately 74.5 percent of the 2017-18 budget is allotted to programming, while 18 percent accounts for capital needs, including operation and maintenance, and 7.5 percent is allocated toward administrative costs.

The state budget, signed earlier this month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, included a total education increase of $1.1 billion — an increase of $140 million compared to what Cuomo outlined in previous drafts of his executive budget.

The big surprise, Hicks said, was the amount of foundation aid agreed upon in the final budget proposal, which adds $700 million in a year-over-year increase. The governor’s initial executive budget proposed about $270 million less.

“We’re at the low end. We received about a 2.7 percent foundation aid increase, which is about $200,080 total,” Hicks said. “It’s not enough to balance the budget, but it’s nonetheless better than the governor’s executive proposal.”

The foundation aid number is key for Clarence, Hicks added, because it is aid that is unrestricted and helps the district balance the books. What’s more is that the formula to calculate foundation aid for districts across the state did not change, as was previously discussed in Albany, and will be fully phased in through the next three years.

Under the governor’s previously proposed formula, foundation aid to Clarence would have been 6 percent lower than if the normal formula were used to calculate aid.

The 2017-18 New York state budget grants Cuomo atypical education powers, however. Under the current legislation, the governor can propose midyear budget adjustments, should the state encounter a loss in federal funding. The state Legislature then has 90 days to respond. If it fails to do so, the governor’s proposal is enacted.

“In the past, it was just the Legislature that had the authority to make midyear budget corrections,” said Hicks. “The last time there was a cut in aid midyear was in the early 1990s. It hasn’t happened in a long time, and we’re hopeful it doesn’t happen this year.”

Hicks noted that residents will receive a postcard with detailed information regarding the district’s proposed 2017-18 budget, which shows not only a breakdown of the budget that was adopted by the Board of Education on Monday night, but also a contingency budget as well.

The board could adopt a contingency budget if district voters defeat its budget proposition. The board must adopt a contingency budget, which limits specific categories of spending, if the original budget or a new version thereof fails for a second time at the polls.

Polls will be open for this year’s budget vote from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 16. Residents will vote separately on two propositions: the proposed $80.2 million budget for the 2017-18 school year, and a bus purchase proposal that includes five 72-seat passenger buses, two wheelchair vans and two 30-seat passenger buses.

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