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PHCS eyes $365,000 budget gap

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PARISHVILLE - With virtually no increase in state aid in he the governor’s budget proposal, Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District Superintendent Darin P. Saiff said the district is looking at a budget gap of more than $365,000.

In order to reach a budget with a 2 percent tax levy increase, Mr. Saiff said the district is facing a budget gap of $365,723. The district’s maximum allowable tax levy increase is 4.4 percent. Should the district present a budget with a 4.4 percent tax levy increase that deficit would drop to $286,501.

“We are the only school district in the county that’s receiving essentially the same aid as we did last year,” Mr. Saiff said.

According to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget proposal, the district will receive a total aid increase of 1,773 or 0.03 percent.

According to preliminary estimated expenditures, Mr. Saiff said the district would be looking at an increase of approximately $295,000 or 2.9 percent.

Business Manager Michael Robinson noted that this figure does not include an estimated $17,000 to $18,000 for an additional day of tech support in the district. That would increase the district’s budget gap to roughly $380,000.

Tech support is one of three budget additions that Mr. Saiff said has been talked about in the past with the restoration of junior varsity sports and $50,000 to purchase new laptops for the district’s teachers also being on the table.

“The laptops we bought our teachers are eight or nine years old,” Mr. Saiff said. “They really have reached the end of their useful life. I would recommend we put those things in, but it’s likely to necessitate taking some things out, but that depends on the legislature.”

Board of education member Heidi Simmons said if the board if going to be forced to make cuts, she can’t support restoring junior varsity sports at the same time.

“There’s absolutely no way if we’re making cuts that we can bring back JV sports,” she said. “They’ll have to fundraise for it.”

Fellow board member Willard Witherell said in his eyes there isn’t much difference between fundraising and increasing taxes.

“It’s the same people paying for it,” he said. “But, if we spread it out over the taxes it’s more people paying less.”

James Young said coming into the meeting he wasn’t sure what to expect.

“It’s (budget proposal) not good, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” he said.

Mr. Saiff described the budget as “OK,” and said at this point the district is waiting to see what comes from the legislature.

According to the superintendent, both the state Senate and Assembly representatives have said the district can expect at least some additional aid.

“We’re hoping the Senate and Assembly can get us some money back,” he said. “It’s likely not going to fill that gap, but hopefully it will help us narrow it down to a more reasonable amount.”

While spending some time in Albany last week, Mr. Saiff said he was told the Senate is focusing on eliminating the gap elimination adjustment, while the Assembly is looking at that, as well as modifying the formula used to calculate state aid.

“Without the GEA we would be fine,” he said, noting for the 2014-2015 year the gap elimination adjustment is scheduled to take $281,287 from the school, making that more than $2 million dollars in aid the district has lost since the 2010-2011 year when the GEA was first implemented.

Thanks in large part to the gap elimination adjustment, the district has continued to see decreased aid, Mr. Saiff said.

The amount of aid the governor proposed for the district this year was nearly $300,000 less than what they received in the 2008-2009 fiscal year, he pointed out.

Major increases facing the district are $62,000 for contributions to the teacher’s retirement system and $84,000 for health insurance.

“With these two items alone, we’ll see an increase of almost $150,000,” he said.

Where the district stands once the final aid runs are released will have a great deal to do with the final budget presented to voters, Mr. Saiff said.

“The proposed increase in what this preliminary budget was 2 percent, because that’s a nice round number. Depending on what we see from the legislature I’ll probably recommend a higher number,” he said.

A 1 percent tax levy increase generates approximately $33,000 for the district.

In four of the past five years, the district has presented its voters with a tax levy increase of less than 3 percent.

The exception came in 2011-2012 when voters approved a tax levy increase of 4.9 percent. Since the tax cap was implemented, the district has yet to exceed the cap.

“Overall we have done a pretty good job of keeping expenditures down,” he said.

The current tax rates in the district are $220.96 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in the town of Parishville, whose equilization rate was 5.6 percent in 2012, and $13.67 per $1,000 in Hopkinton.

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