School budget process continues in Dunkirk

The 2014-2015 budget process for the Dunkirk City School District is still continuing, and board of education members were given an update during Thursday’s meeting.

Business Administrator William Thiel gave a short presentation on the proposed budgets for athletics, transportation and buildings and grounds. Thiel reported very little change from the current 2013-2014 budgets.

“Unless program changes (occur), or we do something fundamentally different, we’re pretty much where we are, and that’s why the numbers are what they are,” he said.

The proposed athletics budget is $288,838, which Thiel said is down $300,000 since 2009 and the same amount as the current budget. For buildings and grounds, expense levels have been maintained since 2010-2011’s numbers. The proposed budget for that is $328,455 (not including utilities and personnel), which is virtually the same as the current budget.

The proposed transportation budget has increased slightly, from $1,091,082 to $1,110,444. Thiel added the increase is due to the consumer price index, or a portion thereof, as well as a bump in the proposed special education transportation contract.

“We’re at a 3.58 percent increase (for the overall budget process) before we get started,” he said. “Historically, we’ve been able to manage that at or around, or below, 2 percent. So, that’s the challenge that confronts us. It’s a lot more difficult to make fundamental changes; we’ve used up a lot of the easy to moderate solutions over the last four to five years.”

Superintendent Gary Cerne addressed what the district will be doing with its budget now that the decision over the future of NRG Energy Inc. has been made known.

“It’s an interesting situation because we know that NRG is here to stay. What we don’t know is what the new PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement may look like,” he said. “We haven’t been contacted yet, as far as sitting down and negotiating the new PILOT. We are in a fortunate situation where, should we see a drop in the PILOT for a few years, we do have money in reserves to cover that. The good news is, going forward, we would hope that PILOT would rebound and we’d be in good shape in the long-term.”

Cerne also addressed how the current budget process is going.

“It’s going very well and I’m really proud of the administrators. They came in with a lot of good ideas to save some money,” he said. “We’ve got some thoughts as far as staffing and some changes, and I think we’ll be in really good shape moving forward. It’s always stressful and difficult, but I think we’ll pull it together.”

The superintendent added he is optimistic the district will be seeing a slight increase in state aid, once Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces his budget within the next week or so. He said the overall budget amount for the school district will be slightly less than the current amount.

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