Silver Creek school explains budget challenges

SILVER CREEK – Silver Creek School District is facing another shortfall for 2014-2015 – although significantly smaller than last year.

Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich explained there are still many unknowns but all the decisions the board of education makes ARE for the good of the students, which first means trying to maintain programs.

He said the district eliminated 39 positions in the past three years and was only able to add back some electives last year.

“We hope to be able to do that again this year. After we had cut the electives we saw students sitting in study hall. We would like to add some electives in English and Business,” Ljiljanich said.

He said it is important to approve a budget that is sustainable and responsible. He said as part of this last year the district formed a 10-year reserve plan. He said the district used almost $400,000 in reserves last year and plans to do so in 2014-2015 and possibly for the next five years, but will later have to scale back and hope for increased state aid.

Business Administrator Cindy Mackowiak explained, based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget, the school will received a 2.5 percent increase in general state aid, equating to $263,386.

She said the tax levy limit after exclusions is down from last year’s 7.1 percent to 2.76 percent. She explained that is because retirement increases did not surpass 2 percent and therefore were not excludable and also the growth factor was less than last year. She said the most the school can raise the levy without a supermajority vote is $156,026.

Ljiljanich explained with a rollover budget, meaning no changes are made from 2013-2014, the district’s estimated expense increase is $614,329. He said after calculating in the increase in state aid and $138,127 in proposed reductions, along with the hypothetical of a 2.76 tax levy increase will leave the district with a $56,790 shortfall. He emphasized the board has not made any decisions about the tax levy increase and that is just for demonstrating the smallest shortfall. This is also compared to the $1.3 million original shortfall the school faced last February.

He said even though this is significantly less than last year, the district has already been through its budget lines many times and has very little if any left to cut.

Resident Cindy Sheedy asked if the student population is declining. He said the population has stabilized and the elementary population nearly equals the middle and high school populations. He also mentioned staffing subjects based on student enrollment.

Ljiljanich also brought up the possibility of creating a technology capital reserve fund in anticipation of introducing iPads to students. He said this would be state aidable and the reserve would act like the vehicle reserve used to purchase buses.

The board will meet Saturday, March 1 to go over further budget details. The official budget presentation has been tentatively scheduled for May 6. The board will hold its regular meeting Feb. 12.