BRASHER FALLS - The first draft of the St. Lawrence Central School Districts $19.7 million 2013-14 budget proposal has a gap of more than $300,000.
But Superintendent Stephen M. Putman said he has seen worse the past few years.
To be honest, weve had initial budgets over the last few years with worse gaps, he said.
The first draft of the 2013-14 budget shows a current gap of $386,000, which translates to a tax levy increase of more than 9 percent, according to Mr. Putman.
We recognize thats not going to be acceptable, he said.
Health insurance costs will rise 8.5 percent next year, according to Mr. Putman, an increase of $418,000, while the teacher retirement system contribution increased $186,000 and the employee retirement system contribution jumped by $12,000.
ERS went up a lot, Mr. Putman said, while their TRS contribution jumped dramatically last year and less this year.
District officials also have higher costs for their participation in programs offered by the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, he said. Thats because their junior and senior high numbers were larger the last couple of years, with more students using BOCES services.
The other thing thats a challenge is that all of our labor contracts are up this year, he said, noting it was difficult to plug in those numbers while negotiations were still on-going. Anything is a bit of a guess.
Mr. Putman said they continue to work on whittling their numbers down, and he plans to update his board of education on the latest numbers during their March meeting.
They had presented voters last year with an $18.9 million spending plan that carried a 3.28 percent tax levy increase. The districts maximum allowable tax levy increase under the property tax cap was 4.33 percent.
That budget, which was approved by voters by a 309-94 margin last May, decreased spending by 0.68 percent. But it came with cuts, eliminating three positions - a teachers assistant post and realignment of teachers in the elementary school that equated to two position cuts.
Those cuts came on top of 23.2 positions that had already been cut the previous two years. Those included one social studies teacher, 1.4 elementary teachers, two science teachers, a 0.33 Spanish teacher, one English teacher, a 0.4 art teacher, 1.33 special education teachers, a 0.33 business teacher, 2.5 teacher aides,1.4 teaching assistants and one administrator.
Other cuts included a 0.5 maintenance worker, 2.5 cleaners, one bus driver, one nurse and a 0.5 technology coordinator.
Besides personnel cuts, there were also reductions to some school programs, such as the elimination of the grades seven and eight class advisers and the cutting of most junior varsity athletic teams. The Outing Club, Students Against Drunk Driving and Students for Environmental Awareness groups were also eliminated.
Mr. Putman had told board of education members in November that, because of increases in line items such as teacher and employee retirement system contributions and health insurance costs, their early projections on their 2013-14 budget proposal showed an estimated shortfall of $633,758.
That has since been whittled down to $386,000, with more work to do before the budget vote.
The biggest increases this year are in health insurance. We have a health insurance increase of just a hair over $400,000, Mr. Putman said.