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Massena Central focuses on supply reductions to help balance 2014-15 budget

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MASSENA - Massena Central School officials are focusing on cuts to the supply side rather than the personnel side as they whittle down a $200,000 gap in their 2014-15 spending plan. “We’ve fortunately been able to focus on the supplies and the supply side of the budget rather than the staffing for this year. In the years to come, who knows?” Interim Superintendent William H. Flynn said.

He said they’re looking at reducing the amount of classroom supplies by about $35,000 in the spending plan.

“That will still give teachers some money to work with for their individual classrooms,” he said. “Supply cuts will definitely be hard on the district, certainly, but it’s important to keep people in their positions if we can do that. This is a people business. We definitely need to have the staffing.”

They also plan to use about $3.5 million in fund balance - about $357,000 more than they’re using this year - to help reduce the gap. And, working with administrators, they have come up with some other moves to save money in the $49 million budget.

“We did have several administrative meetings. They essentially zeroed in on making a couple hundred thousand dollars in cuts so that they could keep the fund balance usage at $3 1/2 million. Essentially the cuts are focusing at this point on absorbing a custodial worker position through attrition and some additional savings that we can accrue through renting some server space to BOCES and actually eliminating some desk jet printers in the classrooms,” Mr. Flynn said.

“We are still working on reorganizing a couple of support staff positions, so we don’t have an overall savings there yet. It looks like we will be able to save possibly between $50,000 and $65,000,” he said. “I can’t say that we’re not looking at maybe reducing the amount of time that individuals work in the district, possibly reducing to half-time positions or something like that. We’re trying to keep everyone working.”

In terms of revenue, Mr. Flynn said they’re working with a tax cap of 1.64 percent, which equates to about $225,000. They will receive $635,000 more in state aid than what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had proposed in January. Their Gap Elimination Adjustment is down by $803,000 and their foundation aid increased by $454,000. Expense-based aid, such as BOCES, is up by $380,000, but building aid went down by $57,000.

Their quest has been to balance the difference between $45.5 million in revenue and $49 million in expenses using their fund balance and the reductions they’re suggesting to the board of education.

During the last board of education meeting, district officials had been asked to address several scenarios, including one in which all the administrator requests were filled, one that would use $3.7 million of the fund balance to maintain the status quo, and three that would involve cuts while using $3.5 million, $3 million or $2 million from the fund balance.

Using $3 million of fund balance, they would have needed to make $700,000 in cuts, while using $2 million would mean $1.7 million in cuts.

“Under the direction of the board’s Finance Committee we’ve all come together to do this. I have to say, administrators and directors have been great as far as working together. This is really sort of a team approach to the reductions. I’m very proud of the fact that they were able to come together and work as diligently as they did. We probably invested between nine and 12 hours in meetings to get to this point,” Mr. Flynn said.

A budget presentation will be held during the board of education’s regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 24, and board members will be asked to approve the budget that night. The budget hearing is May 13, and the budget vote is May 20.

Until then, Mr. Flynn said, there’s more work to do in preparation for the April 24 meeting.

“We’re gong to have some conversations with the administrators again and make sure we have all our ducks in a row before the board meeting,” he said.

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