Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School
The Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School District received some good news with the passage of the New York state budget, but could have used more.
Superintendent Scott Osborne told members of the School Board and public March 27 that an increase in state aid had cut their previous deficit estimate in half, but the district was still looking for ways to cut $302,914 in the 2013-14 spending plan.
"State aid allocations were given out, and we now have an updated picture and a much more sharper picture," Osborne said. "The gap is half of what it was before, but it is still a significant gap for a small school such as ours."
Osborne proposed to the board $300,400 in cuts, with $157,900 in reductions that could be made without reducing employment, which included several staffing positions that would be eliminated through attrition and cuts to office materials and other items.
One issue that raised eyebrows was the elimination of $5,000 for field trips, which would allow no school funding for ventures outside the school.
Even Osborne said that there was some gray area as to what was and was not a field trip.
"I want to look at Harvard Model UN because it is such a deep curriculum trend and you could say that it is not a field trip, but it is," Osborne said. "It can go back and forth. Sometimes sending our students to competitions does not just mean sporting events."
"I get the field trips but I just wrote yuck on my paper because I don't like it, but it is a number that is high enough that we have to look at," board member Karen Hooper said.
"If we could find sponsorships or for field trips to send the kids out I think we would allow them to go then," board member Karin DeMuro said.
Osborne also presented $142,500 in cuts that would affect staffing, resulting in the loss of 3.17 positions.
The cuts would result in a two-member reduction in staff, with one coming through attrition. Osborne said that position, which was in the elementary, would not be re-hired as the school would try a new approach with its sixth-grade class.
"We are looking at putting them on the bell rotation and making them a true part of the middle school," Osborne said. "Instead of having one dedicated teacher to sixth grade, they would be taught by several teachers and our middle/high school schedule would now be for students in grades 6-12 instead of starting at seventh grade."
Along with cuts, Osborne said that he and finance officer Cindy Moody had allocated $500,000 in fund balance to help cut into the gap.
"It is unfortunate that as a public school we have to take that much out of our reserves to pay for this budget," Osborne said. "Even thought the numbers have changed, that is still a very significant chunk for us."
Osborne said that if significant fund balance usage was needed, the school would be looking at using more fund balance than left in the account within two school years.
"I was prepared to come before this board and say that I found this much money and yet we are only halfway there," he said. "Luckily, we got some good news with the latest numbers. However, looking at our futures chart, the situation is grim. Around the 14-15, 15-16 school year, the board will have to have great discussions on how we are going to fund our schools."
Osborne said that he felt the cuts were made equally across different programs and departments.
"I can't find any positives to cutting our funding to our students’ education by $300,000, but if there is one positive it is that we did not single out one group," he said.
Under the current state aid runs, ELCS will receive $180,000 in a Small Government Assistance program and $3,429,241 in state aid, an increase of $236,357 from their previous budget run.
The district can raise $3,473,974 in the property tax levy, which is a 4 percent increase from 2012-13, the maximum allowed by the New York state tax levy cap for the school.
The next budget meeting will take place Wednesday, April 17 at 5 p.m.
"I will have forecast number three at that meeting," Osborne said. "As of right now, everything is prospective. Really, no final decisions are made until the vote in May."
For more information on the ELCS budget process, visit the school website, elcs.neric.org, and click on budget development under the “our district” tab.