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Final MCS budget update presented

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MASSENA - Massena Central School’s Finance Committee chairman reiterated his concerns about the use of fund balance Tuesday when he presented the district’s 2013-14 proposed budget.

“We are never going to be able to solve our monetary problems in Massena by taking money from the tax base. We recognize that, you all need to recognize that and we need to work together going forward because we cannot continue to use this amount of money out of our fund balance every year because it will run dry,” Loren Fountaine said.

The $49.1 million spending plan calls for the district to use $3.5 million out of the available fund balance for next year. It carries a 1.64 percent tax levy increase and was approved by the board of education in April.

“I just want to highlight once again that this year we really put the onus on the administrators to come up with the cuts that were necessary to reach the budget that the board wanted to approve,” Mr. Fountaine said. “We must recognize that (the fund balance money) is not going to be there forever. So as we go forward in the coming years, we have to continue to do things that include lobbying the state to get rid of gap elimination and lobbying the state to fully fund the foundation aid.”

The budget also asks voters to approve the purchase of five 66-passenger buses at a cost of no more than $523,705. The bus purchases will be made through the general fund without the use of bonds, notes or renewal notes, according to the chairman.

The budget calls for $202,000 in savings in part by cutting one custodial worker and a half-time nurse. There will also be one retirement in the district’s art department.

Classroom printers will also no longer be funded, creating additional savings.

Figures also include a state aid increase of $635,000 more than Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had proposed and a $803,000 decrease in the gap elimination adjustment.

“We got a few more dollars than what we originally intended to get. The gap elimination adjustment did decrease. We were hoping they were going to do away with it all together, but that did not happen,” Mr. Fountaine said. “For the first time in many years, foundation aid actually did increase - not to the level that we would like to see but we still did get some increase on that. Our total state aid is up $1.58 million over the ‘13-’14 budget.”

The spending plan also indicates a 50 percent cut to classroom supply budgets, cuts to miscellaneous ancillary supplies and the rental of server space to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

The tax levy increase will bring in $225,000 in revenue. For the owner of a $100,000 home, that would mean an approximate tax increase of $21.

District resident Robin Wolpin, who has a daughter in the school system, asked Mr. Fountaine about looking into teacher incentives with early retirement.

“I think that it sounds to me like there are some teachers that are sitting around, ready to go and using up sick days and costing some substitute money. Is there any possibility next month you would think about that?” she asked.

“I know that the MFT (Massena Federation of Teachers) has met with the district on at least one occasion to negotiate. Those will be ongoing because the contract is going to expire,” Mr. Fountaine responded. “That discussion will or won’t be part of some discussion before next year. Obviously if any more savings are realized, because we vote on a final number, that money could be utilized in other ways if those things happen.”

The final budget vote will ask voters to approve the plan while also choosing two members of the board of education. The candidates are incumbents Leonard Matthews and Kevin Perretta and newcomers Jason Premo and Paul Haggett.

Voting will occur from 12 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Massena Community Center.

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