Brocton not left out of school budget woes

BROCTON – Budget woes seem to be the norm for area school districts going into budget season, and Brocton is no exception.

Business Executive Betty DeLand projected a bleak outlook for the district’s state aid and tax cap during a recent board of education meeting. She concluded by saying Brocton is “between a rock and a hard place.”

“The governor is saying he’s giving all the school districts so much state aid. Well, I’m here to show you he hasn’t given us anything,” DeLand said. “We’ve lost an average in basic state aid of $551,231 per year for the last seven years (including next year). That also happens to be the average amount we have in our expenditures from year to year.”

She added districts across the state were promised a minimum foundation aid increase of 3 percent per year, starting in 2007-2008. By that formula, Brocton should have received an extra $1.5 million the past seven years, including next year.

The district saw an actual increase of $58,707.

“$58,000 versus $1.5 million is quite a bit of difference,” DeLand remarked.

Brocton is projected to receive $6,568,858 in foundation aid for 2014-2015, the same amount for this year.

On top of that $1.5 million loss, DeLand said the school lost $2,360,342 in the past seven years (including next year) due to the state-mandated gap elimination adjustment. Brocton is slated to lose $197,464 as a result of GEA for 2014-2015, down from $334,097 taken away this year.

“GEA has really hurt us over the last five to seven years, and the restoration of that is more important than doing anything with the foundation aid formula,” Superintendent John Hertlein said. “The money Brocton seems to be getting is all categorical, meaning we have to use it for certain things, so you can’t buy more textbooks or programs.”

Brocton’s state-mandated tax cap for next year is 1.46 percent, which allows a maximum tax levy of $4,554,097.

“We did review the budget and we are under that number (without having to cut programs or staff), but we managed to get to it only through the use of reserves and fund balance,” DeLand said. “When you’re using reserves to offset our levy, eventually you’re going to run out of reserves.”

To override the tax cap, voters must approve the budget by a supermajority of 60 percent. If the budget fails, the board must revert to the previous year’s levy with no increase. DeLand deemed that a “risky” option.

“Our district will stay within the tax cap,” Hertlein said. “… The property taxpayer has already been taxed enough, so we’re sympathetic with them. We’ve been able to keep costs down by just not inflating costs, but as a result, we’re only able to keep the status quo. We can’t grow.”

The next meeting is March 19 at 7 p.m. The second of a series of board development workshops will take place March 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. to discuss finances and curriculum.

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