By Michael Yeoman, Dispatch Correspondent
POSTED: 05/14/14, 3:16 PM EDT
CANASTOTA >> The Canastota Central School Distinct held its public hearing Tuesday night on the proposed 2014-15 school budget that will be decided by district voters May 20.
Although there were approximately 100 people in attendance, there was little public comment and no opposition to the budget expressed.
Canastota resident Brenda Conover said she attended the hearing to better educate herself on the entire budget process. “I feel that the district has done a very good job in looking out not only for the taxpayers, but most importantly, the children,” she said.
District Superintendent Fred Bragan, who will be retiring from the district at the conclusion of the school year, thanked the people who were instrumental in putting the budget together, including Matthew Stevens, the district’s business manager, members of the board of education and teachers, staff and state representatives. “Our teachers, faculty and staff have really stepped up the past few years by accepting wage freezes, wage concessions, and have helped wherever possible to reduce costs,” Bragan said. He applauded the efforts of Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-121, and state Sen. David Valesky, D-53, in Albany to increase the district’s state aid, which is the main revenue source for the district.
Bragan said the proposed 2014-15 budget of $26.6 million, carries a 2.27 percent increase over this year’s budget of $26.1 million and a 2.97 percent tax levy increase. “The tax rate falls below the allowable tax levy limit while holding spending to a level that prevents cuts to programs or staff. “As we look around the state there are many school districts who have cut both programs and staff. We have been great stewards of our taxpayer’s money.”
Stevens said the budget process actually begins only two months into the school year. “We start in November by obtaining input and feedback from faculty and staff for the coming year’s budget.”
Stevens pointed out that the main challenges associated with this year’s budget were the GAP elimination charges that the district still had to absorb. GAP elimination figures that were incorporated in to the budget resulted in a net loss of aid of $982,000 for the coming year. He said that over the past six years the district has lost over $9.6 million in aid from this state initiative.
The proposed budget increases spending by $592,000 over the 2013-14 budget but adds four positions, including two reading/literacy specialists, a grade 4-6 social worker and an assistant principal. “We are seeing more trends across the state where students are coming in with emotional health needs at an earlier grade level and the social worker position for these grades will have a positive impact on these student,” Bragan said.
Forty-nine percent of the district’s revenue comes from state aid. For the 2014-15 school year, said that the total state aid projected is $12.96 million. $11.32 million is anticipated from local property taxes. Additionally, the district will be taking $1 million from reserves to offset a decrease in money received from the fund balance.
If approved, residents within the district can expect a 66 cent increase in property taxes per $1,000 accessed home value. Before STAR exemptions, the total school tax on a $100,000 would be approximately $2,294.
Voters will also be asked to decide on a referendum to purchase three new buses for the district – two 65 passenger vehicles and one 59 passenger bus with wheelchair access. Stevens said that the estimated borrowing after trade- ins is $305,500.
Two 3-year board seats will be voted on as well. Four people are running for these positions: Eric C. Dimao, Wesley R. Hood, Stanley R. Congden III and Loran H. Crosby.
Polls will be open from noon until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20. Voting will take place in the auditorium of the Vincent Albanese Complex on Roberts Street and the South Side Elementary School gymnasium.