School Eyeing Big Cuts

W hen Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a $132.9 billion budget on Feb. 1 focused on closing the state’s fiscal gap, officials in the Granville School District heard little good news in the address.

The governor’s aid run, the first indication school districts receive reporting potential state aid numbers, is down again, more than last year.

Business manager Cathy Somich said on Friday, Feb. 4, the district is looking at an aid loss of about $900,000 for the 2011-2012 budget or 7 percent more than last year.

“We’re waiting to see what happens, but that is not good news,” Somich said.

“This governor seems to want to get education costs down by reducing state aid and then there’s (talk) of a 2 percent tax cap,” Somich said. “With the loss of that aid what can (the board) do? They’re going to have to make cuts.”

It is too early in the budget process to say what the aid cut will equate to, either in loss of programs, sports or jobs, but cuts seem unavoidable, Somich said.

Somich said the cuts into state aid might not be as severe once budget negotiations continue between the governor, senate and assembly, but it is certain Granville will lose substantial state support for the second year.

Superintendent Mark Bessen has already begun meeting with building administrators setting the groundwork for the budget process, Somich said. 

“We’re waiting to see what the legislature does but in the mean time Mark has been in contact with Rep. Tony Jordan and Sen. Betty Little as I’m sure a lot of other rural school districts have done,” Somich said.

In the 2010-2011 budget the district lost $765,000 in state aid, a gap the Granville Board of Education closed, at least in part, with cuts and fund balance monies as the $24.2 million budget did not raise taxes for the second year in a row.

Somich said the school’s fund balance was currently about $4 million. “We’re looking at depleting $1.5 million from the fund balance and that’s just what it takes to balance the budget on fund balance alone,” Somich said. “We can’t live on that forever.”

Adding to the worries, Somich said the school has not seen an increase in foundation aid since 2008-2009 and a scheduled restart of increases has now been pushed back to 2016. In the meantime costs associated with running the district continue to increase from contracted raises in employee pay, health care and retirements to fuel for school buses and building boilers.

The work on the newest budget begins with the Feb. 14 Board of Education meetin

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