Forestville school officials looking at 3.1 percent increase

FORESTVILLE – Forestville school looks to increase the tax levy to balance the budget.

The Forestville Board of Education convened Thursday for a special budget planning meeting.

In order to close the gap the school has to come up with $577,767. The total balanced budget for the 2014-2015 school year is $11,844,100 which is a 3.1 percent increase.

The district is now proposing the tax levy contribution increase from the previously proposed 1.46 percent to 1.51 percent.

Why the tax levy increase from 1.46 percent to 1.51 percent?

The 2013-14 tax levy was $3,622,430. Tax base growth increased $1,800 making the amount available in 2014-2015 $3,624,241 total. With the 1.51 percent increase, the tax levy will amount to $3,677,155, an increase of $54,725.

An increase for a home assessed at $70,000 would be an additional $19; a home assessed at $100,000 would increase $27; and a home assessed at $40,000 would equate to $11 more for the 2014-2015 year.

“What is really scary is we keep dipping into our reserves to keep up with what state aid isn’t giving us,” Business Administrator Carolyn Robertson said. “We are using too much and keeping a really tight budget.”

“If the GEA (Gap Elimination Adjustment) was gone we would just get back to our $4 million fund balance,” she continued. “They are talking about removing it in the next two years.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal does not increase the foundation aid; it would restore $68,885 if the GEA was eliminated.

The planned cost reductions are the third component in trying to solve the budget gap.

“The huge help comes in two teachers planning to retire; this would make up most of the gap,” Robertson said. “We are holding off some other needs with various departments until we have more money.”

If the two teachers retire, $114,442 would be cut out of the budget. Eliminating the hall monitor would cut $12,000. Holding off on maintenance and education supplies a little longer would eliminate $38,200. Transport software cuts would add up to $9,000. The total decrease in budget expenditures would amount to $173,642.

There will be a 3.1 percent increase in revenue, or $360,912, which makes the total budget $11,844,100.

The state building aid needs to be used in a 15-year time period. The school is looking to spend $2 million on its planned facilities improvement projects. The capital project funding is already 10 years old, so the district has five years to use the funding or lose it. Once it is spent the school can start saving for the next projects.

The district discussed changing its bus replacement plan. Usually the district replaces two large buses, one small bus and one van each year.

“We replace buses every five years; we like to keep buses in good shape,” Robertson said. “Now we may just replace one of the large ones and have 12 buses instead of 13.”

The school lunch fund will also change. Student meal participation has increased 2.4 percent; however students are not buying vending machine items as much, causing a 13 percent decrease in revenue.

“Students are not interested in the vending machine items. We need to figure out how to keep food healthy but taste good too,” Robertson said. “The problem is we are a small rural district and we don’t have a lot to work with.”

There will be a significant impact when cafeteria employee benefits are moved from the general fund to the school lunch fund. There will be an anticipated loss of $60,000.

The budget needs to be voted by the school board by April 3 and be ready for the budget hearing by May 8.

“We want to reach out to the community and have parents and community groups sit in on the budget,” Robertson said. “We want to see group presentations.”