SCCS board has tough decisions again

SILVER CREEK – The Silver Creek Board of Education is facing tough decisions again this year when deciding on how to balance the budget.

The board has not finalized numbers yet, but significant shortfalls were highlighted in a recent presentation by Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich.

Ljiljanich said out of the gate the district is looking at a $466,284 shortfall due to increased costs from the $19,832,822 2012-13 budget and is facing a $25,000 reduction in aid for special education.

In addition to this, if nothing is done about the “sequestration” at the federal level, the district could be facing an 8 percent reduction in Title 1 funding equating to $48,100 for the district. Ljiljanich explained most of the funding lost goes to mandated teachers’ salaries.

The district had also wanted to purchase curriculum development services from BOCES at an additional cost of $35,000.

Ljiljanich explained the district plans to close the shortfall in several ways including reserves, tax levy and anticipation of additional state and Native American aid.

At the meeting, Ljiljanich suggested using $120,000 in reserve funds. He also used the figure of $200,000 increase in tax levy, equating to 3.7 percent, for calculations sake.

“What is a fair percentage for the tax levy?” he asked the board. “Our tax levy limit is 6.7 percent, which means we could raise the levy that much with a simple majority vote. The board needs to determine what it thinks is a fair increase.”

Ljiljanich also explained the calculations included a 1 percent increase in state aid based on Gov. Cuomo’s promises and an increase in anticipated Native American aid based on receiving more than anticipated for several years in a row.

“One problem with this is we are already planning uses for this increased revenue, so we will not be able to use them for other things,” he added.

He said it is still unknown if state aid will increase or if the district will be able to attain fiscal stabilization funding.

Board President Martha Howard asked, if the district were to receive more in aid, should the funds replace the amount of reserves or levy used?

Ljiljanich recommended reimbursing the district’s reserves, saying it is important to maintain reserves for the future.

“We are a somewhat unique case in Silver Creek, because unlike other districts we decided to cut programs first and save reserves. Now many other districts are left with no reserves and must cut programs and we are in the opposite position,” he explained.

Resident Anna Frederickson asked if any teacher cuts were planned in the budget. Ljiljanich said the only position being discussed is a full-time music position, which if eliminated would save the district $40,000.

“The teachers really stepped up last year. It would be really hard to have to do it again,” Howard said.

Ljiljanich said tough budgets necessitate the board to prioritize what can be cut and what is most important to be reinstated if funding is made available.

The board had a budget workshop Saturday, March 2 to try to finalize some of the budget figures before the next meeting on March 13.

The board was also asked to consider some stakeholder suggestions including offering a permanent early retirement incentive, eliminating an administrative position, eliminating modified sports and sharing classes with other districts.