Weekly Feature

2018-03-08 / Front Page

District budget brings slight increase


The West Seneca Central School District Board of Education gave the public its first glimpse of 2018-19 budget numbers during a presentation on Monday night.

The preliminary budget brings with it two propositions: a $120.8 million budget and the purchase of 10 school buses at $1.02 million from the Bus Purchase Reserve Fund.

Interim Superintendent Matthew Bystrak said the budget is a 3.44 percent increase from the 2017-18 spending plan. It would result in an estimated tax increase of $48 per year on a $100,000 property.

According to Janice Lewandowski, financial and computer services manager, and Brian Schulz, district treasurer, the budget is under the tax cap, making district residents eligible for the New York State Tax Relief Credit.

The budget maintains all current programs and offers enhancements in the Academy, elective and Erie 1 BOCES programs, Bystrak said. It also adds 7.5 positions to the district and 10 vocational slots for students.

“We are no longer a district in severe fiscal stress. We have moved through some very difficult fiscal times, and we hope to continue to build our fund balance,” Schulz said, referring to the district’s surplus.

Bystrak said it is important to engage students beyond academic programs and balance this need with a fiscally responsible plan.

“Clubs, athletics, music, art — things that we’ve placed a great deal of value on in this community. We want to make sure that we can maintain those programs as well,” he said.

According to Lewandowski, the district is under the burden of hefty mandates and personnel costs.

“Pension costs were less than $4 million in our 2009-10 budget and have more than doubled to over $8 million and now account for 7 percent of our budget,” she said.

Schulz said the district is under mandates at the federal, state and local levels that account for about 90 percent of the budget.

“We have very little discretionary funds. Our budget, like most school districts, is largely employees and employee benefits, and the debt service relating to the mortgage of the facilities,” he said.

But Schulz said that doesn’t mean mandates take priority.

“Because of the most recent events nationally, we have five school resource officers in our school district; we fund four of them,” he said. “SROs and security, they’re not mandated, but in this day and age, to not do what we’ve done would be a sin.”

He added that the district’s capital project, which is in the works, will address security modifications to entryways.

Schulz added that of the $4.01 million increase from the 2017-18 budget, all but $36,000 will be used for instructional program increases.

“State aid was 60 percent of our revenue source. It’s now below 40 percent of our revenue source,” Schulz said.

The board estimates that nearly $61.5 million will be levied against property taxes.

A number of payment in lieu of taxes properties are set to expire this year, which will benefit the district as they are returned to the tax roll at 100 percent.

Additional positions for the district include two in the area of business and technology, .5 art teachers, four bus drivers and one senior microcomputer technical support specialist.

“I think it’s a feel-good moment to know that we are looking to see where we go from here as far as our student needs and beginning to rebuild positions to meet needs across the district,” said Jonathan Cervoni, human resources administrator on special assignment.

Adoption of the budget is expected to take place during the board’s March 26 special meeting, with a public hearing on May 7.

The public vote on the propositions will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 15.

email: jwaters@beenews.com

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