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Madrid-Waddington preliminary budget calls for 28.79 percent tax increase

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MADRID — Faced with a lack of state aid and increased education costs, Madrid-Waddington Central School Superintendent Lynn M. Roy says the district is “out of ideas” on how to reduce its budget.

Additional revenue needed to balance the budget would equal a 28.79 percent increase – a number far exceeding the state’s 2.241 maximum tax cap and too high of a burden for taxpayers, Mrs. Roy said.

Mrs. Roy presented a preliminary budget that showed a 5.37 percent spending increase, for a total budget of $15,795,059. The total is $1,001,984 more than this year’s budget of $14,793,075 at this week’s board of education’s meeting.

The 2013 tax rate was $17.33 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in the towns of Madrid and Waddington.

While no new programs are being added, contractual obligations, utilities, maintenance supplies, employee benefits and health insurance costs have made balancing the school budget extremely difficult, she said.

“It’s still early in the process, but this is where we are now,” Mrs. Roy said. “The cost of running and maintaining our building has gone up, as demonstrated in the need for additional operations, maintenance and supplies. Utilities have seen a double-digit increase this year.”

The school is looking to add a full-time math teacher for seventh through 12th grades and a combination full-time custodial worker and bus driver to replace a retiring bus driver.

“All of us heard about the change in the implementation schedule of the Common Core learning standards for this year’s third-graders graduating in 2017-2018,” Mrs. Roy said. “But what was left out of the news, located in the fine print, is the fact that in order to graduate demonstrating Common Core proficiency, students will be required to pass the English language Regents with a score of 75 and the math Regents with a score of 80. Current graduates are required to pass with a grade of 65. If we don’t start providing our students with support now; to make sure they are able to meet the demands of the common core then we will be doing a disservice to our students and their future.”

The school is hoping to share a part-time behavioral specialist with another school district. The district currently shares health and technology teachers.

The school has allocated a 10 percent increase in extracurricular and athletic budgets. Those areas have been frozen since 2010, Mrs. Roy said.

“That area has been decreased significantly and consistently since 2008. But contractual obligations for officials have increased, and we need supplies,” Mrs. Roy said. “As we heard last year during the community forums there was strong support from the community to maintain extracurricular activities as much as possible.”

The budget also reflects a long-term plan to replace and upgrade all the computers within the district over five years.

“We are looking at significant increase in computers,” Mrs. Roy said. “Six years ago we did a full installment when we replaced all the computer stations in the district, and those are computers are all now dying at the same time.”

This year, the school replaced its administrative computers. Within the next two years, it plans to replace its instructional, and the following year its lab computers.

The school is also looking to add laptop carts, tablets and personal devices, Mrs. Roy said.

Little relief, however, is being offered from the state, Mrs. Roy said. Since 2008-2009, total school aid has only increased about $70,000. According to the proposed executive budget, the school will receive about $119,000 increase in school aid this year.

“We are in negotiations with legislators right now to increase that amount,” Mrs. Roy said. “I have to believe we’re going to get more than the governor’s proposal for school aid, but how much more I don’t know. I have to believe we will come to terms on employee benefits, but to what degree I cannot predict. I believe we can make some minor adjustments. So it is not going to be 28 percent but it is going to be higher than 2.241 percent.”

The school board is also encouraging legislators to eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Under the GEA, a portion of the state’s annual education funding shortfall is divided among all school districts throughout the state and reflected as a reduction in school district state aid.

Since its inception in 2010, the GEA has reduced state aid to the Madrid-Waddington Central School District by $2,293,069 and contributed to the district’s “financial struggle,” Mrs. Roy said.

“We are getting short on ideas,” Mrs. Roy said. “We are down to where every department has taken a hit and lost some personnel primarily through attrition – the retiring of staff.”

She said the administration’s plan is to maintain the status quo.

“The electives are necessary for a truly rigorous and relevant education. We need to have classes for our kids to sit in,” she said. “If not, what are we providing our students?”

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